2017 Season Countdown: #11 Chris Evans

2017 Season Countdown: #11 Chris Evans


August 21, 2017

Chris Evans (image via the Michigan Daily)

Name: Chris Evans
Height: 5’11”
Weight: 200 lbs.
High school: Indianapolis (IN) Ben Davis
Position: Running back
Class: Sophomore
Jersey number: #12
Last year: I ranked Evans #70 and said he would be a backup running back and kick returner. He ran 88 times for 614 yards and 4 touchdowns, and he caught 6 passes for 87 yards.
TTB Rating: 68

When the 2016 countdown started, it was largely unknown whether Evans would end up playing running back, receiver, or defensive back at Michigan. There were rumors about all three, and it looked for a while like he would play defense. Once fall camp started, however, word started to trickle out that Evans was looking like an immediate contributor at running back. It didn’t take long for the talk of defense to dissipate entirely, and his 8-carry, 112-yard, 2-touchdown performance in his Hawaii debut made everyone wonder if Michigan discovered a star. Among other accomplishments, Evans would go on to average almost 7.0 yards/carry and score a go-ahead 30-yard TD against Florida State in exciting fashion.

Last year he played second fiddle to De’Veon Smith, but Smith graduated, opening the door for Evans. Evans got special treatment during the spring game when he was pulled early, despite being healthy. Meanwhile, the other running backs were left out there as fodder for the rest of the day. Lately, though, talk has emerged that Karan Higdon may be pushing Evans for the #1 running back spot. Regardless of how it shakes out, it seems like Michigan still doesn’t have a true bell cow of a running back, and it will be running back by committee, with Evans, Higdon, fifth year senior Ty Isaac, and others factoring into the rotation. I don’t think any of the backs will hit 1,000 yards this year, but I believe Evans will be the leading rusher when all is said and done.

Prediction: Starting running back; 110 carries, 600 yards, 6 touchdowns

33 comments

  1. JC
    Comments: 121
    Joined: 8/17/2015
    JC
    Aug 21, 2017 at 8:42 AM

    This is the fun part of the countdown: where disagreements happen. I can’t put Evans above Metellus. Evans is a great back, but his backups are more capable than Metellus’s backups.

    Thanks for all your work on this series, best part of my morning at work.

    • Comments: 130
      Joined: 9/15/2015
      ragingbull
      Aug 21, 2017 at 8:59 AM

      yeah makes almost no sense to put evans this high

      • JC
        Comments: 121
        Joined: 8/17/2015
        JC
        Aug 21, 2017 at 9:09 AM

        I wouldn’t say no sense. With possible OL run-blocking woes coupled with Evan’s shiftiness, he does seem like he should be the best back by a decent margin.

        But if Higdon has taken a big leap forward (we’ll see), and if Evans can’t handle an increase in carries, I think this is a touch too high.

        • Comments: 130
          Joined: 9/15/2015
          ragingbull
          Aug 21, 2017 at 12:22 PM

          youre right, i shouldve specified it doesnt make much sense to place any RB in this spot given the current roster, projected outputs, etc.

          they have 3 capable RBs and a fairly diverse roster and while i really like evans ability to create in the open and make defenders miss and i think the team would obviously be worse off without him, i dont think RB impacts this particular team as much as some other areas.
          cole, speight, hurst, mone, gary, bush, mccray, bredeson, kinnel, metellus, hudson, nordin, hill, etc…those dudes and handful of others are likely the most vital pieces given the projected depth chart and how the team would look and perform without their services (ie if they were to get injured).

          id prob put evans around 16-20 given his talent and projected impact…though hes produced and proven a bit more to date, hes sort of similar to guys like crawford, bunting, etc, in that theyre expected to be significant contributors yet theyre at positions with some legit potential depth and they have not currently established themselves as irreplaceable or distanced themselves so much from the competition.

          if evans, crawford or bunting do down its a big loss but a good portion of their production and impact can be picked up and mostly offset by one of or a group of fairly talented and / or promising guys (higdon / isaac, wheatley / mckeon / gentry / eubanks, and any # of WRs).
          if cole, bredeson, hurst, mone, metellus, kinnel, hudson, mccray, etc suffer an injury, the 2nd (and even 3rd) stringers are not nearly as prepared to step in at those spots and provide an approximate level of competence, production, impact, etc.

          if evans had distanced himself and projected to see 150+ touches or whatever or be a conference star id be more inclined to agree with him at 11. and maybe he will but thats not what most in the know are reporting / projecting. and this is coming from someone who wanted evans to get more snaps as soon as i saw him run last year, im a big fan of his game and think hes the type of shifty athlete theyve been missing at RB for some time.

      • Comments: 635
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        WindyCityBlue
        Aug 21, 2017 at 9:10 AM

        If you’re only projecting him to get 600 yards, yes. But whoever our starter is should be doing better than that.

        • Comments: 15
          Joined: 1/10/2017
          Julio
          Aug 21, 2017 at 11:15 AM

          Suppose the heavens parted and Harbaugh was suddenly showered with a bunch of 5-star backs (Najee and others like him). You’d be cool with that, right?

          Suppose there was a fierce competition in camp and all three/four did well.

          Suppose Harbaugh decided to divide carries three/four ways. It might mean that the leading rusher came in under 600 yards.

          Would that be OK?

          Yes, I realize that there’s only one 5-star back in the bunch (Isaac, who must be an All-American by now given his lofty recruiting ranking). I just don’t see any problem with dividing the carries.

          • Comments: 635
            Joined: 8/11/2015
            WindyCityBlue
            Aug 21, 2017 at 11:35 AM

            Well, try dealing with realistic scenarios. Show us all of the really successful seasons we’ve had when our best RB only gained 600 yards. Or the seasons where we had 3-4 great backs who divided carries equally and didn’t get much higher than 600.

            You won’t be able to, because it just doesn’t happen in the reality the rest of us inhabit. You’re challenged to prove me wrong.

            And please..when have I or anyone ever claimed that every 5 star recruit is going to be great? Never. Don’t waste bandwidth dredging up bullshit strawmen just because you don’t like being schooled on the plain truth.

            • Comments: 15
              Joined: 1/10/2017
              Julio
              Aug 21, 2017 at 6:27 PM

              You didn’t say whether you’d be cool with getting a bunch of 5-star backs. Probably, though, right? (Aside: For someone who isn’t inclined to answer questions, you’re pretty fussy when it comes to questions of your own.)

              It also seems that you wouldn’t be comfortable with the top rusher getting 600 yards? Would your opinion change if the team’s total rushing yards and yards-per-carry figure were in the 95th percentile? What is magical about 600 yards? Is there a value where you’d stop being concerned?

              I didn’t say that you’ve claimed that every 5-star recruit is going to be great. No straw person there … it seems clear, though, that you believe a roster must have a high number of them. It also seems clear that you believe the correlation coefficient between recruiting class ranking and end-of-season ranking is about 0.99993. Correct?

              • Comments: 635
                Joined: 8/11/2015
                WindyCityBlue
                Aug 21, 2017 at 9:44 PM

                What’s “a bunch”? And what’s “suddenly”? No, frankly, landing four 5 star running backs in one recruiting class would not be a good idea. Do you need me to explain why? And do you also need it to be explained why that doesn’t mean I hate 5 star backs?

                You were challenged to show successful seasons we’ve had where our leading rusher gained only 600 yards. You failed, as I knew you would. But if you had tried, you might have a grasp of why that’s a low number and why, if you have no backs any better than that, you’re running game is not going to be championship level.

                And your quote was: “Yes, I realize that there’s only one 5-star back in the bunch (Isaac, who must be an All-American by now given his lofty recruiting ranking).” Why MUST he be? Do you think it’s not obvious what you were implying?

                And this: “it seems clear, though, that you believe a roster must have a high number of them. It also seems clear that you believe the correlation coefficient between recruiting class ranking and end-of-season ranking is about 0.99993. Correct?” Tell you what…if you want to know what I think, you’re free to ask me, instead of making stupid shit up and trying to put those words in my mouth. Your own thinking is more than enough for you to handle, so don’t presume to do mine for me.

    • Comments: 2083
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Aug 21, 2017 at 9:34 PM

      I agree that Evans’s backups are more capable, but you also have the opportunity to fold somebody like Brandon Watson into the safety position. I thought Keith Washington would also be an option there, but Washington is now gone. But also, I don’t think Metellus is as good of a player as Evans.

      • Comments: 3181
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Lanknows
        Aug 21, 2017 at 10:05 PM

        Evans is a better player than Metellus but if he’s stuck near the pack (as indicated by the yardage prediction and Higdon supposedly pushing for #1 spot) then he’s not a difference-maker.

        While we can argue the same for Metellus he’s supposedly gone unchallenged at safety.

        There’s no real indication you can fold Watson to safety without having serious problems.

        Imagine the freakout RB had a situation like safety: somebody like Evans backed up by Taylor and Samuels…

        Yes, RB is different than Safety but the differences are striking.

  2. Comments: 635
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    WindyCityBlue
    Aug 21, 2017 at 8:43 AM

    I was a bit surprised that Evans only ended up with 6 catches last year. Harbaugh was raving from early on about how good he was as a receiver out of the backfield, but he did not get much play there. Hopefully he will get more of those kinds of touches this year.

    And offensive line concerns notwithstanding, if our starting RB only gets 600 yards, and if a higjly promising true freshman gets fewer yards on more carries in his second year, that would rank as a major disappointment.

    • Comments: 289
      Joined: 9/13/2015
      michymich
      Aug 21, 2017 at 10:26 AM

      Now I am officially depressed after this projection. That is 1000 yards between are two top rb starters which tells me the following.

      UM is going to pass a lot or it has a porous offensive line. I assume projected was 200 yards or so for Isaac? If so this averages out to 100 yards per game even including non conference. I guess I should expect about 7-8 wins unless UM is going to the pass spread.

      My projections would be 900 yards Evans. 700 yards for Higdon. 250 yards for Isaac and some residual yards for x,y,z rb/fb for about 100 yards so somewhere around 175 per game. Maybe I am too optimistic? I see Evans and Higdon as very viable backs. I am projecting about 4-5 yards per carry depending on performance. UM is probably going to have a very good defense and offense should get the ball. Harbaugh does like to have balance. I could be way off. Opponents will need to respect the passing game with Speight so the run game will have opportunities. Too much pessimism with OLine?

    • Comments: 2083
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Aug 21, 2017 at 9:35 PM

      I have concerns about whether Evans can stay healthy for the entire year. Of course, I hope he can. I just think he’ll get dinged up.

      • Comments: 3181
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Lanknows
        Aug 21, 2017 at 10:06 PM

        Was he hurt last year or is this just about size?

  3. Comments: 568
    Joined: 1/19/2016
    je93
    Aug 21, 2017 at 9:12 AM

    Move this young man around, and get him the ball, in space!

    • Comments: 635
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      WindyCityBlue
      Aug 21, 2017 at 9:23 AM

      Yep..slot him, or put him in the backfield along with Higdon or Isaac once in a while.

      • Comments: 568
        Joined: 1/19/2016
        je93
        Aug 21, 2017 at 9:50 AM

        Can speight hit a RB in the flat?

        • Comments: 635
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          WindyCityBlue
          Aug 21, 2017 at 10:05 AM

          Of course he can. He’s had three years of coaching from the best quarterback coach in the galaxy, and he is a serious threat to go pro after this year.

          • Comments: 3181
            Joined: 8/11/2015
            Lanknows
            Aug 21, 2017 at 10:07 PM

            Your sarcasm is closer to correct than some of your serious posts.

  4. Comments: 904
    Joined: 8/13/2015
    Roanman
    Aug 21, 2017 at 2:08 PM

    Your top four running backs totaled 2300 yards last year.

    i would guess Evans for around 800 with the next three guys somewhere around 1800 yards between them for a grand total around 2600 total yards rushing from the RB position. We’ll get another 150 or so running reverses and Hill. That’s a top 35 or so rushing offense.

    I think the number of carries and yards are going to be tightly bunched between the top four guys, with another one or two getting some run here and there.

    • Comments: 289
      Joined: 9/13/2015
      michymich
      Aug 21, 2017 at 2:26 PM

      I think this about right. All I know is that 1000 yards for the two top backs is d.e.p.r.e.s.s.i.n.g. unless Speight does a Dan Marino impersonation.

      • Comments: 904
        Joined: 8/13/2015
        Roanman
        Aug 21, 2017 at 5:04 PM

        Rothlisberger

  5. Comments: 289
    Joined: 9/13/2015
    michymich
    Aug 21, 2017 at 2:37 PM

    Here is another way to look at the yardage. UM has IU, RU, Purdue, AF and Cinci which I assume would inflate the numbers. Assume just 150 yards average for those two top guys, then you are talking about 250 yards total for the other 7 games which doesn’t include a bowl game. That would be 7 games that UM is going to struggle running the ball and I don’t see Speight as a gunslinger unless these frosh are a AC, Howard and Edwards tandem.

    • Comments: 904
      Joined: 8/13/2015
      Roanman
      Aug 21, 2017 at 5:14 PM

      A top 35 or so rushing offense isn’t bad at all if it comes with a top 35 or so pass offensive and a top 20 or so defense. I don’t think it puts you in the National Championship game, but that’s an unrealistic prospect to begin with for such a young team. It would however be a very nicely balanced team with a lot of different ways to win games.

    • Comments: 3181
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Lanknows
      Aug 21, 2017 at 6:45 PM

      Michigan will likely need to pass more if they want to score more – which they will need to as the defense takes a step back.

      • Comments: 289
        Joined: 9/13/2015
        michymich
        Aug 21, 2017 at 7:42 PM

        What makes you think the defense is taking a step back? Maybe a half step back with Lewis gone but Stribling was a finesse guy. I see a lot more speed at the lb’er position. Winovich should be stronger. Got Gary and Hurst and Mone and some decent depth.

        I am one of these guys who see the OL as the key to the team but this team can do well this year and I don’t see the defense as the problem. I never thought Peppers was that great on defense especially in coverage. Defense is going to surprise people on their performance. Kemp and Furbush and others. Too bad about Washington.

        • Comments: 3181
          Joined: 8/11/2015
          Lanknows
          Aug 21, 2017 at 9:56 PM

          Experience and talent. Look at the talent and experience going out the door. That’s not getting replaced. Maybe next year… even then it’s a stretch.

          • Comments: 3181
            Joined: 8/11/2015
            Lanknows
            Aug 21, 2017 at 10:24 PM

            To flesh this out some:

            Hill –> Metellus downgrade
            Thomas –> Kinnel probable downgrade
            Stribling –> Long huge downgrade
            Lewis –> Hill huge downgrade
            Peppers –> Hudson downgrade
            McCray –> McCray small upgrade
            Gedeon –> Bush probable downgrade
            Charlton/Winovich –> Winovich/Villain significant downgrade
            Glasgow/Mone –> Mone/Solomon significant downgrade
            Godin/Hurst –> Hurst/Dwumfour probably downgrade
            Wormley/Gary –> Gary/Kemp downgrade

            Michigan would be lucky to match last year’s performance at even 4 spots. That’s not to mention the potential disasters at various spots in the secondary and the lack of depth at LB.

            • Comments: 568
              Joined: 1/19/2016
              je93
              Aug 21, 2017 at 11:46 PM

              Think back to a year ago:
              Kinnel > DThomas
              McCray 17 > McCray (1yr experience, and auditioning for a draft pick)
              Bush > Gedeon (on this D, with Coach Brown)
              Mone/Solomon > Glasgow/injured Mone
              Hurst > Godin
              Gary > Wormley (yeah, I called it)

              After watching the entire 2016 season:
              2017 Viper > 1st year Viper

              In some spots, we can see significant improvement. At Corner, we could see it come unglued

          • Comments: 289
            Joined: 9/13/2015
            michymich
            Aug 22, 2017 at 4:05 AM

            The defense may not be as good but I don’t think it is unreasonable at all to expect a top 10 defense.

            Are lb’ers potentially as good as last year? Got McCray back after a year. Linebackers may be better.

            DL looking good. Can I expect Gary to be better than Charlton or Wormley? Close by the pre season accolades by some people. That is no guarantee but Gary should be pretty good. Hurst is a plenty good replacement for Henry. Mone. I don’t see a big drop off at all.

            Is the secondary that hard to replace after Lewis? In fact, wasn’t the secondary the weak link for UM last year (relative to other positions). Is Hill and Thomas huge replacements? These guys weren’t top NFL picks. Lewis I will give you but I must be missing something because other than some youth I think this defense can be better by the end of the year. A lot of talent on that side of the ball. Faster for sure. Offense and especially the OL is a whole different story. Defense is going to carry this team for the 1st half of the season.

  6. Comments: 3181
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Lanknows
    Aug 21, 2017 at 6:44 PM

    I don’t think Michigan needs to have a “bell cow”. Splitting carries between 2-3 backs would be just fine if they’re all the same. Which – they probably are more or less.

    If the above is true, then #11 is far too high.

  7. Comments: 14
    Joined: 8/12/2015
    LeeR
    Aug 21, 2017 at 11:30 PM

    Great to see the TTB 68 up there. Who knew!

    I don’t want to see Evans slugging it out on 3d and 1. I want to see him in space, cutting and running by defenders. And healthy.

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