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Ole Miss' Zach Evans is SEC's Sleeping Giant at Running Back

In a more run dynamic offense, former TCU running back Zach Evans should be poised for a breakout year.

In what has widely been considered "Transfer U" during the 2022 offseason, Ole Miss is reloading with names from the transfer portal. The focal point has always been on quarterback due to the departure of three-year starter Matt Corral. 

Jaxson Dart, naturally, is the prized jewel of the class, but He might not be the most impactful player donning the Rebel Red come Saturdays in Oxford among those making their debut. 

That title should belong to running back Zach Evans. In fact, one could argue the most prominent move of the offseason outside of the quarterback carousel found at different programs. 

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The Rebels are replacing three running backs this offseason that primarily saw action in then-Jeff Lebby's offense. Snoop Conner was drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars while Jerrion Ealy is now with the Kansas City Chiefs. Henry Parrish Jr., Ole Miss' rising star, transferred during the offseason to Miami. 

Evans won't match the entire production lost in the backfield, but he should produce with an exceedingly amount of carries. His role at TCU often was overlooked due to then-coach Gary Patterson's pass-heavy formation in the final two years. 

The 2020 recruiting cycle was filled with plenty of questions surrounding Evans' future with a program. Initially, it seemed he would be committing to Georgia before a myriad of concerns away from football changed the course. It led him to TCU, where he'd become a staple of the Horned Frogs offense. 

In 2020, Evans recorded just 54 carries. Last fall, that number increased to 92. The production likely would have been higher if a toe injury wouldn't have kept him out the final five games last fall. 

Kiffin's offense often has been detailed by the ability to pass. Those from the outside likely aren't familiar with the consistent success of the ground game. In his first season, the Rebels ranked 26th among all FBS schools in rushing.

In year two, they ranked 12th, averaging 217.6 yards per game.

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TCU also consisted of a balanced offensive approach. They averaged 4.9 yards per play as a team, but Evans averaged 7.6. Should he have played in the SEC, Evans would have surpassed Texas A&M's Devon Achane (7.1) in average yards per play by nearly half a yard. 

He would have been a full yard more than Auburn's Jarquez Hunter (6.6), who finished second in yards per attempt behind Achane.

Evans wasn't the only running back added by the Rebels this offseason. SMU's Ulysses Bentley joins the Sip backfield after finishing last season with 610 yards and an average of 6.4 yards per run. 

The pair should work well off each other, but Evans is the focal point. In a more dynamic offense that puts an emphasis on the rushing attack, Evans should expand his numbers while also showing scouts that he can fit in multiple offenses in the pros. 

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Alabama's Jahmyr Gibbs, when he elected to join the Crimson Tide from Georgia Tech, was the splash move of the offseason for the program that never seems to run out of talent.

Evans was lost among the crowd of talented prospects heading to Oxford this year. In a short time, that hype surrounding Gibbs' name should swing in the direction of Evans.  

Perhaps even a bit of Heisman hype will soon follow. 


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