Bloomington – One way or another, the IU staff is going to find a way to get sophomore Mitchell Evans on the field.
As it became clear to the IU staff that Kellen Lewis and Ben Chappell were going to be the top two quarterbacks on the depth chart, the decision was made to move the 6’3”, 210-pound Evans to a new position for the third time. The quarterback-turned safety-turned quarterback was moved to wide receiver on Saturday, a position switch that he’s welcomed in his effort to get more playing time.
“Right now, I’d say my preference (of positions) is wideout because I have a chance to get on the field,” Evans said Tuesday. “We have some good quarterbacks and some good safeties. We have good wide receivers too, but there are so many on the field at a time, I have a chance to get on the field.”
It’s become apparent that the IU staff thinks too much of Evans’ abilities to allow him to be a third-string quarterback. IU Coach Bill Lynch said the team has reached a point in camp where most of the quarterback reps will be going to be the top two on the depth chart, which would have left Evans stationed on the sidelines.
That wasn’t acceptable to Lynch and Offensive Coordinator Matt Canada, both of whom have compared Evans to junior wideout Andrew Means as far as his athleticism.
“To have that good of athlete not getting reps other than special teams, we felt like we needed him to get back to a position,” Lynch said.
The easy move would have been to safety, but the return of starters Nick Polk and Austin Thomas along with the arrival of transfer Jerimy Finch could have made playing time scarce there as well. So the decision was made to move Evans to receiver, where IU will likely rotate as many as six or seven receivers throughout the course of a game.
Unlike the move to safety – a position Evans played at times in high school along with quarterback – the switch to wide receiver was something entirely new for the West Milton, Ohio, product. He said he’d previously played only one snap of wide receiver in his entire football career, scoring a touchdown on a trick play when he was star high school player at Milton Union H.S.
Evans has been completely open to the IU staff’s efforts to find the best fit for him, an attitude that Lynch said they’ve appreciated his team-first attitude.
“He’s a really unique athlete because he has the ability to do a lot of things, but most importantly he has the attitude to do whatever is best for the football team,” Lynch said. “He’s also a competitor, and he wants to play. He’ll find his way onto the field because he’s such a good athlete.”
Evans is working with the inside “slot” receivers, and the thought is that he could fill Means’ old role. Means played as an inside receiver in each of the last two seasons, but has moved to outside receiver now that James Hardy has departed for the NFL.
“Andrew was kind of our physical guy inside,” Lynch said. “So we were looking for another physical type guy inside, and thought Mitchell, let’s give it a try.”
Evans only has four practices under his belt at his new position, but he appears to be picking up his new position with relative ease. He said the fact he played quarterback throughout the spring has made him familiar with the routes that he’s now running, and the IU staff has also noticed that it’s been a fairly seamless transition.
“We moved him out there and it was about halfway through the first practice and (wide receivers coach) Billy (Lynch) walked by and said, ‘it’s like he’s always played it,’” said Lynch. “He’s a very natural athlete.”
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