Newton County’s Miguel Evans is what college coaches would call a tweener.
He’s somewhere between a safety and an outside linebacker, meaning he could slim up and add some speed and be a safety or could bulk up and be a linebacker. Either way, Evans is a solid tackler for the Cougars and returns for his senior year after recording 133 tackles last year and helping the team to an 8-6 record and the third round of the Class 4A playoffs.
Newton County coach Bobby Bass said Evans only got better as the season progressed last year, finishing
“He got a lot better as the year went on,” Evans said. “Some of that was conditioning. He has a good knowledge of the game. Whenever we start going over schemes and talking about how we are going to stop people and what we are trying to take away, he understands that. He has got good applicable football knowledge, and he has a really good burst off the edge. He may not have a dominant 40(-yard dash) time but he closes space really well. He can play the inside linebacker or the outside linebacker.”
Even Evans admitted that he got off to a slow start last year.
“I thought I played pretty good toward the end of the season,” Evans said. “I guess I didn’t get in rhythm, I was probably out of shape a little bit. We had a lot of people go down last year, and we had to stay strong. When they came back, we were ready to roll. My best game was the last game. I feel like I played the best then against Lawrence County.”
Bass said he hopes that Evans will use last year as a learning experience and take conditioning more serious this summer and build off of how he finished last year.
“I expect him to start off a little bit better this year,” Bass said. “I expect him to start off this year like he finished off last year and get better every week and even better throughout the year. It took him a few games to figure out what his role was. Once he figured it out, he excelled in that. There is no doubt what his role is. We need for him to play fast from the start.”
But perhaps the turning point of the season was the Florence game, affectionally known to Newton County players as the Mud Bowl because of heavy rains that Friday that made for a quagmire in Decatur. That was also the game where middle linebacker and fellow Elite 11 member Collin Crowder returned.
“If we come out on the first play and make a big play, it sets the tone for the entire game,” Evans said. “Against Florence, we call it the Mud Bowl because Coach Bass said he wasn’t going to cancel because it was raining. I made a tackle for a 5-yard loss to start that game and Collin said ‘Okay, let’s roll.’ I think we were a lock-down defense from there. There’s no feeling like having all of your guys out there. Things really started to come together from there.”
Evans, who stands 6-0 and weighs 210 pounds but has an extra-long wing span, has compiled nearly 250 tackles in his career at Newton County. Lat year, he had a team-high 25 tackles for loss with four tackles and two fumble recoveries.
So far, Evan has gotten mostly junior college interest with offers from Pearl River, Copiah-Lincoln, Holmes, Jones, East Central and Gulf Coast. He has gotten some four-year offers from some Division III schools as well, Bass said. Evans has already made an 18 on the ACT and is a qualifier grade-wise.
“It will be interested to see what kind of role he wants ends up in or how they project him,” Bass said. “Probably at the next level, he will play at the outside, depending on what he’s recruited for. He can play the roll-down safety, he can play the strong side backer. He could be the overhang rush guy off the edge because he is a really good pass rusher. He could add some weight. It’s hard to say, it’s going to be up to him. Depends on what position they want him for.”
Bass said different coaches have looked at Evans in different roles while recruiting him. Evans said he is worried too much about recruiting at the moment and is just focused on the upcoming season. Bass said how far Evans goes in college is entirely up to him.
“The level at which he wants to play is probably totally up to him and how hard he works and how committed he is to playing at the next level. He has the talent and has the base knowledge of the game,” Bass said. “I think he reads things naturally and has a lot of natural gifts that I do not know whether he’s aware of or not. It’s him figuring out how far he wants to take it. He can play multiple positions. I just don’t know what they are going to project him at. There have been some team projecting him as a safety and some as a linebacker.”
Because of his athletic ability, Evans will also have a role on offense as well, Bass said. Last year, Evans played running back and wide receiver in fill in roles. Bass said one of his goals as a coach this year was to build better depth on both sides of the football and Evans was certainly athletic enough to play multiple positions on both sides of the ball.
Evans also played on the basketball team last year where he average almost nine rebounds a game after not playing his sophomore season. While he played basketball, Evans was quick to admit that he is a “die-hard football guy.”
“I liked basketball and I thought it helped me in a lot of way,” Evans said. “You have football in shape and then you have basketball shape. I thought it helped me with football as far as staying in shape and with my ball skills. I feel like I’m in way better shape. You can get carried away in the offseason. They needed a voice, it was a quiet team. I’m a very outspoken person and will bring the energy to the team.”