2020 Season Countdown: #16.5 Chris Evans

2020 Season Countdown: #16.5 Chris Evans

September 28, 2020
Chris Evans (image via Wolverines Wire)

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Name: Chris Evans
Height: 5’11”
Weight: 216 lbs.
High school: Indianapolis (IN) Ben Davis
Position: Running back
Class: Fifth year senior
Jersey number: #12
Last year he played (2018): I ranked Evans #15 and said he would be a backup running back with 120 carries for 650 yards and 5 touchdowns with 22 catches for 220 yards and 2 touchdowns. He ran 81 times for 423 yards (5.2 yards/carry) and 4 touchdowns, plus 18 catches for 148 yards and 1 touchdown.
TTB Rating: 68

Okay, every year I screw up and leave someone off the countdown, having to fix it halfway through once I realize my mistake. I thought I was doing well this year, because I made DOUBLE SURE to include every 2020 signee and carry over every roster member from 2019. But of course, Chris Evans wasn’t a signee and wasn’t on the 2019 roster, so I had to wedge him in here after I realized my mistake.

Evans took a step back in his true junior season of 2018, going from 600+ rushing yards in each of his first two seasons to just 423 yards in 2018. However, he did reach a career high in receptions (18) while watching Karan Higdon handle the starter’s workload. The coaching staff really seemed unable to get him going, with his only successful games coming in blowouts or mismatches (SMU, Rutgers, Western Michigan, etc.). It was the first year he did not reach 100 yards in at least one game, with a high of 86 coming against the MAC’s yearly sacrifice, the Broncos.

This year I decided to place Evans at #16.5, a few spots higher than Zach Charbonnet (LINK), not because I think Evans will be the starter or take a plurality of the workload. The reason is that I think Evans opens up some more possibilities for the offense. He’s the best receiver out of Michigan’s backfield, and Josh Gattis’s offense is a knockoff of systems that have used running backs in the passing game more often than what we saw Michigan use in 2019. Saquon Barkley caught 54 passes at Penn State. Alabama’s top two backs caught 22 and 20 passes in 2018 when Gattis was there. Even the forgettable Bill Belton caught 26 passes for Penn State back in 2014.

Michigan running backs totaled 20 catches in 2019, led by Charbonnet’s grand total of 8.

Assuming Gattis wants to replicate the more diverse passing game we’ve seen in other versions of this offense, I think Evans will pair well with Charbonnet in the backfield. I would like to see both of them on the field at the same time, and I would like to see Evans used in the RPO game as a slot receiver. Whether that will happen or not remains to be seen, but I think it would be a mistake to just use one running back at a time when the Wolverines have three guys available with starting experience (Charbonnet, Evans, and Hassan Haskins).

Michigan’s most talented non-freshman skill guys are the following group, so I would try to get them together whenever possible:

  • WR Ronnie Bell
  • WR Giles Jackson
  • RB Zach Charbonnet
  • RB Chris Evans
  • TE Nick Eubanks

Prediction: Backup running back

Here are some highlights to remind you of some of his ability:


  1. Comments: 1364
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Sep 28, 2020 at 6:50 AM

    Still not convinced that Evans is going to make an impact this year. Yeah, he’s worked hard to get back, but guys who have been in the deep doghouse like him rarely do much even if they do return. Hard to predict anything with confidence (I’m not even convinced at this point they will get through anything resembling a normal season), but if they do, I think Charbonnet will be the clear #1, with Haskins #2, and Evans starting off at #3, but gradually replaced by Corum.

    • Comments: 3845
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Sep 28, 2020 at 7:27 AM

      I don’t think Evans would still be at Michigan if the coaches didn’t give him a clear indication that he would be welcomed back and in line for a significant chunk of playing time. He could have gone lots of other places to be “The Guy,” but he didn’t. I would be very, very surprised if he ends up at #4 behind Corum, and I think Haskins is an inferior back, too.

  2. Comments: 6285
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Sep 28, 2020 at 1:46 PM

    Evans should be a very nice story. When you stick around for 5 years and overcome adversity, even if self-created, you tend to grow the number of people rooting for you to succeed.

    Evans was a top contributor in 2016, playing alongside Speight, Butt, Darboh, etc and is poised to remain a top contributor in 2020, alongside Milton and potential starting trio at WR of Bell, Sainristil, and Jackson. A lot has changed in 5 years.

    But Evans role probably hasn’t. I like his skillset and versatility, but as Thunder pointed out he hasn’t really broken out beyond what we saw freshman year. His production has stayed consistent until the lost season in 2019. In the ballpark of 600-800 yards and 4-7 TDs. Some of that is probably on the coaches and some of it is circumstantial but he hasn’t been a game-breaker for Michigan. Maybe with Gattis he can be but Michigan is simply loaded with quality options at RB so it’s hard to imagine he’s suddenly going to breakout as a primary back get 30 touches a game.

    While I agree with Thunder and many others that passes to the RB are underutilized I think we did see hints of this toward the end of the year with Giles Jackson who I view as a pretty similar threat to Evans in terms of versatility. Smaller but more explosive but same idea – the guy is a respectable threat from the backfield or at WR. There are mismatches to be exploited with Evans and Jackson, while Charbonnet and Haskins bring more rugged physicality. Properly executed, this offense has the personnel to really keep defenses guessing.

    With RB loaded and WR unproven it makes sense to get more of them on the field but I don’t know that Michigan can play 2 RBs simultaneously beyond some gimmick situations. Not many teams have made this work consistently.

  3. Comments: 6285
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Sep 28, 2020 at 1:50 PM

    That’s an interesting top 5 for most talented non-freshman skill-players. I think when we look back in 3 months All may have bumped Eubanks from the list and Sainristil may bump a RB.

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