MANHATTAN — The highlight of Randall Evans’ brief Kansas State football career came last year against Baylor. With the Wildcats clinging to a 36-35 lead, he made a tackle on the final kickoff of the game that forced the Bears into poor field position and helped K-State hold on for a victory.
Evans, now a sophomore defensive back, will always be proud of that play. He made the best of what limited playing time he received and became an impact player on special teams. But he is hoping for more this season. Much, much more.
“I want five interceptions, maybe 60 tackles and to go All-American,” Evans said Tuesday. “You’ve got to set your sights high.”
Evans wrote those goals in his iPad last week, and looks at them every day before and after practice. While they might seem outlandish for a guy who has 11 tackles to his name and was listed as a backup cornerback on K-State’s first public depth chart Tuesday, Evans insists he is ready to play a vital role.
He came to K-State two years ago as a walk-on. He was upgraded to scholarship status in the middle of preseason practices. Now he considers himself a backup in name only.
Evans might not start in Saturday’s season-opening game against Missouri State, and he might not start against Miami the week after that, but he thinks he will be on the field plenty.
“I’m already starting,” Evans said. “Now my goal is just to help my team in any way that I can.”
That shouldn’t be a problem.
Much like former standout David Garrett played linebacker, safety and cornerback in past seasons, Evans is a do-everything player on defense. Whenever the Wildcats play pass-happy offenses and take a linebacker out of the game to play with five defensive backs, Evans is the man they will turn to.
“I’m versatile,” Evans said. “I can tell you that. I like being in the box. I love to tackle. Me being a nickelback, I can cover. I’ve played corner and I’ve played safety. Nickel is a mixture of both of them. I love it.”
The main difference: Garrett, though effective, was undersized for all three positions. Evans is 6-foot and weighs 190 pounds.
“I’m fast and I love to tackle,” Evans said. “Me playing linebacker won’t be an issue … I’m ready to roll.”
After going up against Evans in practices, senior receiver Chris Harper is looking forward to seeing what he can do in an expanded role.
“He got moved up in camp because of how he was playing,” Harper said. “He’s out there making plays, undercutting throws, making interceptions and batting down balls. He’s a pretty aggressive guy. He’s a lot bigger than David was, but you can definitely see the comparisons.”
Senior linebacker Arthur Brown is also confident in Evans.
“I didn’t even know he wasn’t on scholarship until I got the chance to know him,” Brown said. “I thought from the first time I met him he possessed the skills of a great cornerback.”
It was difficult for Evans to prove himself coming out of high school in Miami, though. He wanted to play major-college football badly, but had few offers. Fortunately, he had a friend with connections at K-State who could help — former basketball star Michael Beasley.
Evans has been dating Beasley’s younger sister, Mychaela, since he was a high school junior. So when Beasley pulled Evans aside three years ago and told him he could help him go to K-State, Evans was ready to listen. Evans says Beasley’s mother told K-State’s basketball staff about Evans, and they in turn told the football staff.
“It just went from there,” Evans said.
K-State offered him a walk-on spot, and he accepted immediately.
Evans sees Beasley regularly and thanks him for helping him get to Manhattan.
“I’m real good friends with Michael,” Evans said. “He’s like a brother to me.”
As nice as that tackle was against Baylor last year, he wants to help K-State’s secondary win games now. He will get his first chance Saturday. He may not start, but he is confident he will make an impact.
“You can expect me to go hard,” Evans said, “and you can expect that I’m going to make plays.”
Strong competition — One of the most intriguing position battles of the preseason isn’t over. Justin Tuggle and Jarell Childs will play in Saturday’s game, with a starter being chosen before kickoff. Tuggle, a converted quarterback, has impressed during his brief time at linebacker. But Childs has more experience at the position, and has made tackles in past seasons.
“It is a very close competition, which is a very favorable thing,” K-State coach Bill Snyder said.
Whoever ultimately wins the job will play alongside Tre Walker and senior linebacker Arthur Brown.
“You can’t lose with either one,” Brown said. “They both bring great elements to our defense … Jarell, he’s definitely explosive and quick. He has a knack for getting to the ball. Same with Tuggle. He is explosive as well. Coming from the offensive side of the ball, he has a good understanding of what is going on.”
McDonald to miss opener — Snyder said junior tight end Andre McDonald will miss Saturday’s game. McDonald will serve a suspension for violating Manhattan’s dangerous dog ordinance earlier this month.
McDonald was already on probation stemming from a 2011 arrest, and the violation landed him in Riley County Jail for five days. Sophomore Zach Trujillo will serve as Travis Tannahill’s backup in his place, but he remains a full member of the team and will be expected to contribute as the season moves forward.
“Andre made a mistake,” Snyder said. “We’ve got to get him some friends other than dogs. He’s made mistakes and paid for them.”
Ferguson ready to start at safety — Senior defensive back Thomas Ferguson will start at strong safety alongside Ty Zimmerman in K-State’s secondary. Ferguson won a tight competition for the job over Jarard Milo.
“Thomas has always been in the wings,” Snyder said. “He was a backup last year and most of our players have a great deal of respect for his competitive nature and his aggressiveness. He’s been a good run defender and … in the passing game been effective as well. He just needs more and more playing time.”
Surprises — There weren’t many surprises on K-State’s depth chart, but a few players raised eyebrows as backups.
Kyle Klein will back up Tramaine Thompson at receiver, Travis Britz made the two-deep as a freshman at defensive tackle, and Carl Miles Jr., a Georgia Tech transfer, will backup Allen Chapman at corner.
Another sellout — K-State announced its fourth sold-out game (Kansas on Oct. 6). Missouri State, North Texas and Oklahoma State are the others. Miami, Texas Tech and Texas are the remaining home games with tickets available.