SamQuan Evans has high expectations for himself as he enters his second season at Tennessee State. The Winston-Salem sophomore believes this is the year for him to show that he’s one of the top defensive linemen in the Ohio Valley Conference.
The former Carver standout wants to pick up from where he left off as a freshman last year. Although Evans didn’t start, he did earn some playing time, but not as much as he desired. In his mind, he had a slightly above average season.
“I give myself a grade of B-minus from last year, and that’s mainly due to lack of reps,” said Evans, a 6-feet, 280 pounds nose guard. “I got in on 10-15 plays a game last year.”
The stats show that Evans made the most of his limited minutes. He played in 10 of 11 games and totaled 22 tackles, including five for losses, and three sacks. Those numbers compare favorably to last year’s senior starter Donte’ Nicholls, who contributed 29 tackles (three for losses) and one sack. Individually, Evans’ best games came in losses to Murray State (seven tackles – which included three for losses – and two sacks) and Air Force (four tackles, one forced fumble).
“There’s an art to playing nose guard,” said Evans. “The key is to get off the ball quick, keep your balance and use your hands to control whoever is in front of you.”
Evans is a projected starter for this season, and he’s eagerly anticipating the season opener against Florida A&M on Sept. 1. The defensive line is a key area of concern for Tennessee State, but it’s imperative that the overall defense show significant improvement. A year ago, the Tigers were overly generous, allowing 32.8 points and 442.9 total offensive yards per game.
“Our defense has gotten better and so have I because we compete every day,” he said. “We have one of the best offensive lines around (nine starters return from last year’s team that averaged 30.5 points and 416 total offensive yards per game). Performing well against our own offensive line lets us know that we can do the same against anybody on our schedule.”
Evans said he solidified his status as a starter for this year based on his solid performance in last year’s season finale against Jacksonville State (Ala.).
“I always felt I could be a starter by my sophomore year,” he explained. “For me, that Jacksonville State game was like the debut for my (upcoming) sophomore season.”
Now that Evans has adjusted to the speed of the college game, he’s confident that he will return to the form he showed two years ago during his senior year at Carver. Evans was an All-State pick and was named Defensive MVP of the Class 2-A state championship game (Carver lost to Tarboro 21-13). As a TSU starter, Evans is confident he can achieve some of his personal goals of making All-OVC and finishing the season with 40 tackles (10 for losses) and seven sacks.
Earning post-season accolades is hardly a case of wishful thinking for Evans. At 6-feet, he’s relatively short for a lineman, which enables him to get leverage against anyone he faces. Running a 4.9 seconds time in the 40-yard dash is an added plus, and he has the strength (bench presses 425 pounds) to effectively handle single and double-team blocking. Evans is a relentless pass rusher who can also clog the middle to neutralize the run.
“When the ball is snapped, I get off the line quick, and then all I have to do is make a move to make a play,” Evans said. “It’s all about pinning my ears back, finding the ball and getting the job done. That’s the approach that worked so well for me in high school. My main goal is to be that guy on the defense that the offense runs away from.”