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Rashaan Evans, Alabama possibly molding next unsung hero in CFP title game

Alabama linebacker Rashaan Evans (No. 32) applying pressure to Clemson QB Deshaun Watson in 2016 CFP title game: Cedric Mason - Touchdown Alabama Magazine

University of Alabama football fans have come to expect nothing but dominance from senior linebacker, Rashaan Evans.

Since arriving on campus as a five-star in 2014, he’s exuded confidence and leadership at outside and inside linebacker while having constant production. 

Patience is never easy; however, it is a skill that has to be mastered for ones desiring to give clutch performances on Saturdays in the fall at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Evans was a good contributor in his freshman season, and though the following year saw him account for four sacks, his sophomore campaign unleashed a monster in the 2016 national title game. 

His quickness on the edge could not be ignored, especially after Evans recorded both sacks on Clemson’s quarterback Deshaun Watson for a loss of 14 yards in the fourth quarter. It was his speed that contained Watson’s abilities – allowing the Crimson Tide to edge out a 45-40 win. 

In the aftermath of a matchup at University of Phoenix Stadium, Evans transformed himself from contributor to valued starter. He jumped from having 10 tackles as a sophomore, to being second on the squad in the department with 66 stops. A semifinalist for the Dick Butkus Award, which goes to college football’s top linebacker, Evans was credited with 11.5 tackles for loss, six sacks and seven quarterback hurries. Regardless of suffering a groin injury at the beginning of the season against Florida State, he credits the 2016 title game as preparation for tonight.  

“It was an amazing moment for me because I wasn’t really a starter,” Evans said to the press during interviews in Tuscaloosa on last week. “I did not play as much, but I always knew the significance of the situation and had to work as I was waiting.” 

Alabama’s entire defense stifled Clemson in a 24-6 victory in last week’s Allstate Sugar Bowl; nonetheless, it was linebackers Mack Wilson and Anfernee Jennings and cornerback Levi Wallace that stood out from the rest. Wilson made his first start inside and collected his fourth interception of the year, which was returned for a touchdown. Even though he sustained a knee injury, Jennings turned in five tackles – including three for loss and a quarterback pressure. 

Wallace broke up two passes and limited Hunter Renfrow to 31 receiving yards. 

Reflecting on what he did two years ago, Evans said that Alabama’s meeting with Georgia at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta has every opportunity to produce an unsung hero.  

“It’s going to be a couple of guys in this game that may not be well known right now, but they will show up in the game,” he said. “It’s always going to be somebody like that and all I can do is continue what I have been doing and mentoring a lot of these guys who’ve never played in a game like this.” 

Stephen M. Smith is the managing editor and senior writer for Touchdown Alabama Magazine.  You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @Smsmith_TDALMag.

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