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January 27, 2014
Timeline: The Craig Evans saga
Looking back, there hasn't been a player to come through the state of Wisconsin in some time with the skill-set and physical ability that Craig Evans brought to the Sun Prairie Cardinals.
At the same time, there hasn't been a recruitment with as many twists as turns. The four-star defensive tackle has taken Wisconsin recruiting fans on a wild roller coaster ride, and just where he plans to sign on Feb. 5 is not 100 percent certain at this point.
The following is a look back at Evans' recruitment, which has been well documented by the Rivals.com network.
BadgerBlitz.com caught up with Evans for the first time during his sophomore year at Sun Prairie. Originally from Mississippi, Evans detailed how he wound up in Wisconsin and his aspirations to play college football in the SEC.
"Actually, I'm not from the state of Wisconsin. I'm from Jackson, Mississippi," Evans told BadgerBlitz.com. "My ideal choice for college would be to go play back down south, but a place like Wisconsin is a school I really want to go to."
Wisconsin extended a scholarship offer to Evans after his performance at UW's summer camp.
"They liked me before camp and I thought I kept up with everyone today," Evans told BadgerBlitz.com. "I thought I did really good in one-one's and showed the staff what I can do."
Nebraska, Michigan State and Pittsburgh had also offered Evans prior to Wisconsin.
Evans committed to Wisconsin for the first time under then-head coach Bret Bielema.
"I just committed today," Evans told BadgerBlitz.com. "I was just talking to coach Bielema today and he was telling me how most of the positions will be available for me when I got there. That played a big role in it, and then being close to home."
Then-defensive line coach Charlie Partridge also played a large role in his recruitment.
At close to 350 pounds, Evans was at his heaviest during his junior season at Sun Prairie. He was also quick to throw up the motion 'W' when the opportunity presented itself.
Bielema left to take over the head coaching job at Arkansas (Dec. 5, 2013) causing Evans backs away from his pledge to Wisconsin.
Andersen took over the Badgers on Dec. 20 and got a chance to talk to Evans in person for the first time roughly a month later.
"First impression of both of those guys was pretty good," Evans said of Andersen and line coach Chad Kauha'aha'a. "With Coach Andersen, you can tell he is one of those more feistier coaches, likes to get after it and that's what I am looking for. The d-line coach seemed more laid-back and is going to teach you the fundamentals of what you need to do to get to the next level, but also have fun with it."
To the surprise of very few, Bielema and Partridge, now at Arkansas, start to make a big play for Evans.
"Coach Partridge was actually flying up to see his family a couple of weeks ago and he stopped by my school to check on me," Evans said. "We've stayed in touch a lot and it's always nice talking to him.
"He's telling me that he wants me down there with him and I'm definitely taking that into consideration. I'll most definitely take a visit down there and see them sometime, I just don't know when, yet."
Commit, decommit, soft verbal? This would the first in a long line of questions in regards to where exactly Evans stood with the Badgers.
"I told them (UW) I never necessarily decommitted, I just opened my [recruitment] back up," Evans said. "I told them I am just going to take some time and let all this soak in, but basically I am still on board."
Ole Miss also jumps in with a scholarship around this time.
Well, there you have it. Evans is committed to Wisconsin and Badger fans have nothing else to worry about
Evans also doubles as a basketball player and I was able to catch him after an AAU game in Mequon, Wis.
June 25, 2013: Evans camps at Michigan State
This is really where the fascination with Michigan State heats up. Evans has a great trip to East Lansing and the Spartans now hold a special place in his recruitment.
"Coach (Mark) Dantonio is a great guy. Coach (Pat) Narduzzi is an awesome guy," Evans said. "It's a family there that I dig."
Evans shared some of his diet tips - he goes from around 350 to 312 pounds and also talked a bit of recruiting during the BadgerBlitz.com Podcast.
As expected, Evans makes his long-awaited trip to Arkansas to see Bielema and Partridge.
"I told Coach Bielema and Coach Partridge that when I originally committed to Wisconsin those guys were 65, 70 percent of the reason I committed, but the other percent was because of the environment," Evans said. "Wisconsin is a great place, too, and I have ridiculous love up here. too."
"It's going to be a tough decision," Evans said. "I know I was telling people I just had to go down there and see if Fayetteville is the place for me, and I could definitely see myself fitting in there. As of right now it wasn't enough to steal me from Wisconsin, but [Arkansas] is definitely right there and I'm most definitely considering those guys.
Evans makes it to campus for nearly all of Wisconsin's home contests.
"My last game at Wisconsin was when those guys played Northwestern," Evans said. "It was obviously a big day for Wisconsin because they had big-time recruits on official visits. The game day environment is always electrifying and loud. Every visit I take up there is always good."
Evans comes back from his visit to Michigan State and this is where it really turns into a two-team race between the Badgers and Spartans.
"Michigan State is a school I can see myself being successful," Evans said. "I see myself fitting in as a Spartan Dawg very well with my style of play and what I am capable of doing. I would be a great fit for there and what they are trying to get accomplished these next couple of years."
Evans arrived in East Lansing on Wednesday and departed Friday. During his stay he was able to take in the Spartan's bowl practices as well as the basketball team's home game against North Carolina.
"I really enjoyed being able to just sit down and see how certain coaches prepare for big moments like that," Evans said. "Being able to sit with the defensive line coach and defensive coordinator and how intense it was for them to break down everything, I felt that was my highlight.
"I also had a great time with coach Dantonio and he showed me how much he cared and how much he wanted me to be there. He took time to give me tours and take me to places he doesn't normally take guys. I felt that was real special of him to do."
After his official, assistant coach Ben Strickland quickly countered with an in-home visit.
"I just let coach Strickland out the door," Evans said. "Me and him sat down, munched on some sandwiches, sat back and watched some football, talked about life and talked about things outside of football. We're building that chemistry, building that relationship and strengthening it.
"Coach Strickland is a great guy and me and him have that relationship. He probably has the upper hand for relationships as far as recruiters. Him coming today meant a lot to me and means a lot for my decision."
Wisconsin receives Evans' final official visit during a big in-state recruiting weekend for the Badgers.
"I got to end things up with coach Andersen," Evans said. "He's always been an honest guy with me. It always goes well with him. He believes in me, believes I can be something different and something special to that program.
"We were able to just sit down and have a heart-to-heart. He told me how he felt about me, how he wants to be more than just my head football coach. He wants to be that mentor in my life, wants to guide me and help me develop as a young man. That meant a lot to me.
"He also told me what it is looking like for me as far as playing early. If I do what I have to do, he feels like I can be a great attribute to the team and bring something different to the table, which I feel I can, too."
At this time, a final decision between Wisconsin and Michigan State is expected at the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl.
This would appear to be the final piece to the recruiting puzzle, as Evans finalizes his decision to attend Wisconsin.
"I'm going to the University of Wisconsin," Evans told BadgerBlitz.com on Friday morning. "That's the school I will be attending next year. It was a tough decision. It was between Wisconsin and Michigan State. The coaches at Michigan State came after hard, real hard, and I have a lot of respect for that program. I really wish I could have gone to both schools, but that's not an option."
Just days after a Evans' final, final decision, a trip to Tennessee appeared to be in the works.
"I hung out with those guys committed to Tennessee while I was at the all-star game," Evans said. "Charles Mosley was on my team. We spent a lot of time together. We played side by side on the defensive line and we just kind of clicked. He's a great guy to hang out with."
"I've scheduled a visit for Jan. 24," Evans continued. "Big Charles is going to be there this weekend too. I have never been to Tennessee, but I'm looking forward to seeing it."
Evans never makes it to Tennessee, and rumors of academic issues begin to circulate once again.
Evans makes a surprise unofficial visit to Michigan State. The Spartans were always the one team that could contend with Wisconsin and Evans has yet to officially comment on this trip.
Possible outcomes on Feb. 5:
1) Evans signs with Wisconsin
This is the category I fall in. Evans wants to play at Wisconsin, in my opinion. At the same time, he clearly enjoys the recruiting process, but this state has provided him stability and has a built-in support system already in place.
"Since I've been in Wisconsin, I feel like a lot of good things have happened to me," Evans told BadgerBlitz.com. "I'm here for a reason and I want to stay and go to school at Wisconsin."
2) Evans signs with Michigan State
If Evans if solid, then why make a late trip to Michigan State? For the last year, the Spartans were the one team that could legitimately compete with the Badgers for his signature. He seems to have a connection with a handful of Michigan State's current commits and is clearly very close with members of the staff.
I've felt for some time that academics would be a bigger challenge for Wisconsin than another schools. Evans himself acknowledged he needed to improve on his ACT score but didn't seem too concerned.
"No problem," Evans said when asked about his grades in January. "I have to get my ACT score up to get eligible with the NCAA, but I don't think that will be a problem. I'm ready to go."