Friday, December 15, 2017
Colleges

Florida Gators' Josh Evans continues stellar play as family tries to recover from Hurricane Sandy

GAINESVILLE — When Florida safety Josh Evans took the field against Missouri last weekend, it was with a highly competitive spirit and a heavy heart.

The senior was torn between the need to give everything he had to the Gators and his concern for family and friends struggling to recover in the aftermath of the devastation from Hurricane Sandy.

"It was very scary," said Evans, a native of Irvington, N.J. "I think that I kind of had a chip on my shoulder (last) weekend to go out there and play harder for my family, the struggle they're going through, and the lives we lost back in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut. It had me a little emotional to go out there and just play my heart out. It's been tough."

Evans' family home sustained considerable damage from the storm, but his family and friends came out safe, he said.

For Evans, playing through adversity is nothing new. Heading into today's game against Louisiana-Lafayette, he has appeared in 43 games in his career, with 20 starts. Although he played in all 13 games last season (eight starts), he battled injuries that hindered his play. But over the offseason and throughout this season, Evans said he has dedicated himself to more extensive video study and everything else possible to improve his game.

"I was just trying to change my game up," he said. "More film studying, more meeting with my coaches and doing what I can do to put me in the best fit for this team and my future goals."

The result has been evident. Evans is 18th in the SEC and leads the No. 7 Gators with 62 tackles this season, 30 solo. He has had five or more tackles in every game this season. And against Missouri last week, Evans had a career-high 12 tackles and an interception in the end zone with five seconds remaining to seal the win.

He is, defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said, arguably the most improved player on a vastly improved defense.

"I think he certainly has to be in the conversation because of all that he's bringing," Quinn said. "Taking the ball away, tackling physical, he's been a good blitzer, he's come up with interceptions, he's had some sacks. So, all around, we've used him in a variety of ways, and he's answered the challenge every time."

Like several of Florida's upperclassmen, Evans has faced the challenge of playing for three defensive coordinators in his four years, something that has also made succeeding tough.

"It's real difficult, especially coming in from your freshman to your senior year trying to adapt to one thing, and then just that fast it can be totally different," Evans said.

"The one thing I can say about where I'm at right now, it has helped a lot being consistent, learning the same thing."

Evans also said, at 21, he has matured and is more dedicated, a change his teammates attest to.

"He's just a better overall football player," senior linebacker Lerentee McCray said. "He's a better safety. He's a better person. He's a better everything. He just worked to develop his craft."

Next week, Evans will play his final home game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. His senior class has been a part of the program when it faced tough times, and he is among those helping to lead its resurgence.

"It's going to be very emotional," he said. "You come in, and you never think these four years are going to go by so fast. But here it is before my eyes, it's my last couple of games here.

"Just the chemistry of this team is probably what's going to hurt the most (leaving). Not being able to be out there with your brothers, your friends. I think everything is going pretty good to where I'll leave with good memories."

Antonya English can be reached at [email protected].

Comments

Tim Tebow wants to help throw you a tailgate wedding (sausages included)

Tim Tebow loves weddings.He apparently also loves football, tailgate parties and a good brat, which might explain why he’s lending his pitchman talents to a contest that ties all four together.In a promotional video, Tebow asks, "What happens when yo...
Published: 12/14/17
River Ridge grad Chris Schwarz on brink of Division II title with West Florida

River Ridge grad Chris Schwarz on brink of Division II title with West Florida

Two years ago, Chris Schwarz was mulling over his college choices. The former River Ridge High standout had offers from Valparaiso, Florida Tech and West Florida. West Florida?That one baffled Schwarz, mostly because he knew nothing about the school....
Published: 12/14/17
Gators crash volleyball power party, play national semifinal Thursday

Gators crash volleyball power party, play national semifinal Thursday

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It’s difficult to call a volleyball program that has been to the Final Four eight times an underdog, especially the way Florida rallied to beat Southern California and punch its latest ticket. Yet of the four schools descending on ...
Published: 12/13/17
FSU beats Tulane in Tampa, stays unbeaten in basketball

FSU beats Tulane in Tampa, stays unbeaten in basketball

Published: 12/10/17
Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield wins Heisman Trophy

Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield wins Heisman Trophy

NEW YORK — Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy on Saturday night, completing a climb from walk-on to one of the most accomplished players in the history of college football. Mayfield won a lopsided vote to become the sixth Okla...
Published: 12/09/17
Could Jim Harbaugh soon be known as Willie Taggart’s buddy?

Could Jim Harbaugh soon be known as Willie Taggart’s buddy?

TAMPA — His team was in Ann Arbor, practicing. He was signing footballs in Tampa.Yet another Jim Harbaugh fun fact."I can’t be in two places at once," Harbaugh said.Not that Harbaugh wouldn’t try it if he could. College football’s firestarter, its bi...
Published: 12/08/17

Gasparilla Bowl journal: Temple’s Collins speaks highly of former boss, new Gator Mullen

ST. PETE BEACH — If anyone has an accurate read on how new coach Dan Mullen will fare at Florida, it’s Temple’s Geoff Collins.Collins worked under Mullen as a Mississippi State assistant from 2011-14. He jumped from there to Gainesville, where he spe...
Published: 12/07/17
No. 5 Florida Gators lose stunner at home to Loyola-Chicago

No. 5 Florida Gators lose stunner at home to Loyola-Chicago

GAINESVILLE — Aundre Jackson scored 23, Cameron Krutwig added 14 and Loyola-Chicago stunned No. 5 Florida 63-59 Wednesday, handing the Gators a third consecutive loss. Less than 48 hours after Florida coach Mike White said his team’s performance agai...
Published: 12/06/17
Twitter propels man toward dream of becoming bloomin' onion at Outback Bowl

Twitter propels man toward dream of becoming bloomin' onion at Outback Bowl

No matter what happens on the field at the Outback Bowl in Tampa, the star of the show will be the bloomin’ onion. Not the deliciously crispy, glistening, 1,900-plus-calorie appetizer served at Outback restaurants, but the person who parades t...
Published: 12/06/17
Indiana hoops transplant perfectly at home in Tampa

Indiana hoops transplant perfectly at home in Tampa

TAMPA — Back home in Indiana, he was basketball royalty. He played in his first league at age 2. He lived — and loved — the hardwood life. He was accustomed to performing before more than 10,000 fans for his big games.Pat Bacon capped his storied pre...
Published: 12/06/17