Mitchell Evans makes his own name at tight end
Madeline Ladd | Friday, September 29, 2023
Junior tight end Mitchell Evans is breaking out of the shadow that the legendary Michael Mayer has cast the past few seasons. An Ohio native and three-star recruit out of high school, Evans has become another weapon in offensive coordinator Gerad Parker’s arsenal this season. Having fully recovered from a concussion he suffered prior to the Central Michigan game, Evans exploded onto the scene last Saturday and led the receiver room with seven catches against Ohio State. One of these was a one-handed highlight reel grab, an unexpected moment for Evans in the primetime game.
“Obviously I wasn’t expecting it, because my job on that play was to get my teammate open first,” he said. “I was thinking in my head, ‘I’m at the top of my route’ and I looked and the ball was there. Sam threw it and I got my hand up there. My right hand was stuck.”
Despite the loss against the Buckeyes, Evans gained confidence in his ability to play with the best in the spotlight. It was an expectation that this would be a top matchup and it was time to show college football what the Notre Dame offense can do.
“We knew it was going to be a big game, top-10 matchup, top-five defense,” Evans said. “All the guys, we were kind of like, ‘This is the time to show the world Notre Dame offense is legit.’ For me, I learned that if you put a linebacker on me I’ll win, put a safety on me, I’ll win. I learned I can go against anybody and pretty much win.”
Last year, Evans made his mark on the field as the ball carrier in the “Mitch-A-Palooza” short yardage formation which featured him bullying forward for several first downs and even one touchdown. However, he knew he needed to expand his playmaking abilities to provide mismatches on opposing defenses. Evidence of his improvement is his being flexed outside, away from the normal spot attached to the offensive line.
“That’s kind of always been there, but really been showing it this game,” Evans said. “That was one of the things I wanted to work on this offseason, route-running ability and staying low. That was one of the games I got to show it.”
The tight end room features Evans and sophomore Holden Staes, a duo that will be a threat to any team. Peak performance is needed from both this Saturday, as junior wide receivers Deion Colzie (out) and Jayden Thomas (questionable) are banged up. Evans is confident the tight ends can pick up the slack.
“Our room is ready, we are healthy,” Evans said. “Every guy in the room can be split out wide, I’d say, so I wouldn’t say it puts more pressure on it because the guys in our room can handle it. Even guys in the receiver room, younger guys like [freshmen] Rico [Flores Jr.] and JG [Jaden Greathouse] have shown they can take on that extra load.”
As for Duke this weekend, Evans acknowledged the Blue Devils as a worthy opponent.
“Schematically, they’re good. Stats-wise, they produce a lot of turnovers and are pretty stout up front,” Evans said. “Backers are pretty good and the safeties and the corners are pretty speedy. They’re a good defense — should be a good challenge. They’ve shown it all year, they’ve beat some pretty great teams, so they’ll be a good challenge for us.”
Evans emphasized that the loss only motivated the Irish to attack Duke this weekend. No one is dwelling on what happened, rather they’re looking forward toward the away matchup under the lights at Wallace Wade Stadium.
“We want to come together and show a response,” Evans said. “Obviously, it was a tough week last week, but championship teams respond. That’s the kind of mindset we’ve taken on, we had a great practice today all around. We didn’t flinch today, no one was with their head down moping around. We’re ready to go.”