The recruitment of North Shore running back Zachary Evans has been a crazy saga of uncertainty, disorder, and waiting. The 5-foot-11, 200-pound prospect is listed as the No. 2 running back in the nation by 247Sports, and the top back by ESPN. Now nearly two months after National Signing Day and just over four weeks out of the recruiting dead period, the five-star recruit has yet to sign with a college program.
A Player Breakdown
Evans, Texas’ highest-rated running back since Adrian Peterson, is not the typical athlete.
He possesses a college-ready frame and physicality to match. Despite missing multiple games for various reasons over the last three years, he recorded 4867 yards rushing on 311 carries (an average of 15.65 yards per carry) and 76 touchdowns against some of the best high school teams in the nation.
On film, his running style is able to change based on the talent he faces, and the schemes opposing coaches design to stop him. If the defense crashes in to plug the middle, he can break outside and outrun the secondary.
If a smaller defender breaks down in front of Evans, he will simply go through them.
His patience in the backfield is likened to Le’Veon Bell’s ability to pause and wait, before bursting through the open gap that takes a moment to develop.
Evans is a powerful upright runner and has Division I talent, but doesn’t share the love for the game that it has shown him. In fact, he told 247Sports that he doesn’t watch the NFL or college football, and “hated” the sport growing up. Conceivably, his recruitment has been a reflection of that notion.
A General Timeline
It began in May of 2019, when Evans released a Top-5 list of Alabama, Georgia, LSU, Ohio State and Oklahoma. Not a single in-state school made the initial list, but a month later, he visited both Texas and Texas A&M, confusing just about everyone.
He entered his senior year in the fall of that same year, but was suspended for the second and third games of the season, for what was deemed “disciplinary issues.” Likely as a result of the suspension, Evans pushed back his September announcement, where he was expected to commit to Georgia. Instead, he announced his return to the gridiron in Week 4 with nine carries for 137 yards and two touchdowns.
Evans put up astonishing numbers throughout the season and declared he would pick between Alabama, Georgia, LSU and Texas A&M on December 4, right in the middle of the Texas State Football Playoffs. On that day, those close to the situation believed he would be headed to LSU. Instead, he pushed back his commitment once again, citing his desire to avoid being a distraction for his team. He would announce on January 2, 2020.
10 days later, as his team took the field for the state semifinal game, Evans sat in the classroom taking the ACT. He missed most of the first half, and still finished with 176 yards and two touchdowns in the win. Impressive.
Later in the month, just hours before North Shore’s state championship, news broke that Evans would miss the game. Per reports, he would not hand over his cellphone the night prior, which broke a team policy and had him sent home.
His season came to an abrupt ending, and Evans’ focus turned to the next level, beginning with his commitment during the Under Armour All American Game in the new year. The understanding was that he had signed his National Letter of Intent with Georgia.
“I officially signed,” Evans said. “I am enrolling early as well. I feel good. There is a lot of pressure off my chest now. Just knowing I have to leave my family was tough, but I have known where I was going for a while, I just had to take official visits to make sure.”
An official announcement never came and Evans instead issue an apology during the game.
Interview with 5* RB Zach Evans from the UA Game. @ReuseRecruiting @RadiNabulsi @UGASportscom pic.twitter.com/g3AyB7gCa1— Trent Smallwood (@SmallwoodTrent) January 3, 2020
Not a week later, Georgia granted Evans an “unconditional release” from his National Letter of Intent. He was no longer tied to the program, and his recruitment would reopen. However, players can only sign one NLI per recruiting cycle, which meant that wherever Evans would end up, the school would not have any official documentation of his decision.
As the nation’s most talented back and the Bulldogs parted ways, new schools began to pursue his talents. Of those teams, Florida, Tennessee and Ole Miss began to emerge.
New head coach Lane Kiffin had just taken the reigns in Oxford, and hit the recruiting trail hard. Even with an already talented running back room full of youth, and incoming four-star recruit Henry Parrish already committed, he made a push for Evans as National Signing Day closed in and invited him to visit. Evans took an official visit to Oxford the weekend of Jan. 17, and momentum seemingly picked up for the Rebels. His most recent instagram post came from that weekend, dressed out in the blue uniform.
Evans took his fourth official visit to Tennessee the following weekend, and was scheduled to take a trip to Gainesville, but never posted anything from either trip.
As signing day creeped closer, rumors circulated Georgia may have been back in the mix, but no one seemed to have a definitive answer as to who would get the momentum boost from landing a generational talent at the buzzer.
Apparently, neither did Evans, as the day came and went without an announcement. Nearly two months later, the radio silence remains.
A Future Expectation
In short, nobody knows when, where or if Evans will play college football.
Assumptions would gather that his interest in playing remains minimal, his timetable remains fluid, and a decision remains absent. Should he choose to continue his football career, Evans cannot sign an NLI and would simply enroll at a university. Thus, until he is on the field, dressed in pads, taking snaps with a Division I offense, the curious case of the nation’s top running back will not see its final chapter.
The waiting continues.