The transfer portal gave us plenty to talk about this offseason. Some huge names in the devs circles were on the move. Quinn Ewers transferred to Texas, Jahmyr Gibbs transferred to Alabama, Caleb Williams followed Lincoln Riley to USC, and Spencer Rattler made his move to South Carolina. There are plenty of interesting names in new destinations that are getting plenty of attention in this space. However, there is one name that I am more excited for than any of the previously mentioned. I know, it's hard to believe being excited about someone other than Gibbs in that 'Bama offense. Zach Evans showed the college world what he could do while he was at TCU. Is his move to Ole Miss an upgrade? Let's dive in and see what we can uncover.
Zach Evans at TCU
Zach Evans was a five star recruit out of the state of Texas. He helped lead North Shore to the state championship game his senior year but disciplinary issues made him miss the state game. Evans had signed his letter of intent with Georgia, but was released from his LOI a few weeks later. After interest from other SEC programs, Evans signed with TCU. While at TCU, Evans was never really given the workhorse role we expected. Evans lost some games his freshman year during the COVID-19 season. Despite that, Evans has shown how efficient he can be when he touches the football. He is able to be efficient by being physical, explosive, and using his vision to read plays.
This clip from Devy Deep Dive shows you how Evans wins between the tackles. First, the vision to see the hole and attack it. Second, the physicality to break the first tackle and run the defender over. Finally, the speed and acceleration to erase the pursuit angles of the secondary defenders and maximize his yardage gained. Efficiency is the name of his game so far. In two years at TCU, Evans has turned 146 carries into 1063 yards. That's a cool 7.3 yards per carries. He's also added 18 receptions for 206 yards or 11.4 yards per reception. If you aren't given a workhorse workload, you better make the most of your opportunities and it seems like Evans is doing the most with each time he touches the football.
The Ole Miss Offense
Under Lane Kiffin, Ole Miss has averaged around 45 carries a game. In 2021, Jerrion Ealy finished the season with 133 carries for 768 yards. Snoop Conner and Henry Parrish Jr also finished the year with over 100 carries. Even Matt Corral rushed the ball over 150 times in this offense. Ole Miss likes to spread the carries around, they employ a committee like approach. Even with 4 ball carriers having over 100 carries, there are plenty of carries to go around. Evans has shown that he can be efficient with a limited number of carries, but how different is he from Ealy? We can do this by looking at both Evans and Ealy's Rush Yards Over Expected (RYOE) per attempt. RYOE is the difference between actual rushing yards and expected rushing yards per rush attempt. I am not the most analytically inclined, but according to @SpreadsheetFB, RYOE has been a good predictor of RB efficiency. Using data from the Campus 2 Canton website, we can see on the graph below that Evans seems to be more efficient running the ball.
Evans gains more than a yard more per attempt than expected. Ealy hasn't been the most efficient runner. By joining an offense that likes to run the ball, we could possibly begin to see Evans efficiency paired with more of a workload. Running the ball is only a part of what we want out of our running backs nowadays. Running backs are expected to catch the ball more to be considered three down backs. Evans only has 18 receptions in his first two years, Ole Miss running backs accounted for 67 receptions last year with Ealy leading the way with 32. The increase in receptions should increase Evans draft stock by showcasing how much of a receiver he can be.
Zach Evans is a former five star prospect that is transferring to an SEC school. He is an athletic freak that is in line for an increase in attempts on the ground and receptions. He is joining and offense that likes to run and will bring his efficiency to the Ole Miss squad that will elevate their run game. This is one of the transfers that I am most excited about. Jahmyr Gibbs at Alabama will be fun to watch, but Evans seems to be someone that the community has forgotten about. Evans does have more question marks surrounding him than Gibbs, but if he can clean up some of the off field actions, I think his move to Ole Miss will pay off in the end. Evans is my RB2 in the loaded class of 2023. If you have him in any of my Devy leagues, I will gladly take him off of your hands