Most of Alabama's defenders had a difficult time tracking down Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson in January's football national championship game. Rashaan Evans was a glaring exception.
Evans capped his sophomore season with two sacks in the Crimson Tide's 45-40 defeat of the Tigers. This spring, however, the 6-foot-3, 230-pounder from Auburn, Ala., has been getting a look at inside linebacker under coach Nick Saban and new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt.
"We recruited him because he had such a fast-twitch ability to rush on the edge," Saban said in a news conference Monday night. "He did a good job of that last year, and we still have every plan to use him at that, but we do a lot of experimenting in the spring. We want to know who can do what, so we know how to put the pieces together in the fall."
The Crimson Tide had their second of 15 spring practices Monday afternoon, working out for two hours in helmets and shorts. The workout was the first for the defending national champions since March 11.
Alabama will put on pads for the first time Wednesday.
"You can't be casual in how you approach spring practice," Saban said. "I don't care how good of a player you are. I don't care about what you've done in the past. I don't care how many games we've won, because that doesn't really matter. There is a standard that we all need to buy into, because spring practice is like a project.
"It's like building a house. We're building a new team, so there is a beginning and a process you have to go through."
Evans was among the most touted members of Alabama's 2014 signing class, having been ranked the nation's No. 1 outside linebacker by Rivals.com, Scout.com and 247Sports.com. He had a publicized recruitment that culminated with him picking the Tide over rival Auburn, where his father had signed as a tailback recruit in 1982.
He has totaled 25 tackles and five sacks in his first two seasons, with his Clemson performance easily the most notable yet.
"We move guys around and play them at different positions, and I've been impressed with what he's been able to do so far," Saban said. "He is naturally instinctive, and it's going to be a matter of him learning the position. Being a linebacker, that's not going to be something that's overly difficult for him to do."
Spring break duty
Saban said everybody made it safely back from spring break and that players were asked to work out four times while they were away.
"I told them that we would know the players who had worked out four times," he said. "If they don't take care of themselves, they won't respond in practice the way they want to. We don't call to make sure they do it or have a postcard that they fill out, and I've been pleased that when we've encouraged them to do things, they usually respond in a positive way and buy into it.
"I didn't ask anyone how much they worked out over spring break, but it's a real indicator of how important football is to them."
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.