After helping the Arkansas Pine-Bluff offense overcome Alabama State in the Turkey Day Classic, Golden Lions offensive tackle Mark Evans II has been named one of the Shrine Bowl HBCU Offensive Players of the Week. Considered one of the top FCS prospects by multiple analysts, Evans continues to ascend with a genuine shot at getting selected in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Week 13 Offensive HBCU Players of the Week: Arkansas Pine-Bluff OT Mark Evans II
Alabama State entered the Turkey Day Classic with the third-ranked scoring defense in the SWAC. Behind offensive tackle Evans and running back Kayvon Britten, Arkansas Pine-Bluff put 14 points on them by the half. Golden Lions standout Evans earned Shrine Bowl Offensive Player of the Week honors as Arkansas Pine-Bluff snapped an eight-game losing streak by putting up 19 points and 333 yards of offense in their first FCS win of the year.
One of the Shrine Bowl HBCU Players of the Week, Evans has received a steady stream of national attention this season ahead of the 2023 NFL Draft. The senior offensive tackle was on the Shrine Bowl 1000 Watchlist as well as the Black College Football Player of the Year Watchlist to begin the 2022 college football season.
During the season, Evans was one of just two offensive line players added to the Walter Payton Award Watchlist. The Walter Payton Award honors the most outstanding offensive player at the FCS level. Having previously earned first-team All-SWAC recognition (and a high likelihood of doing so again), there’s no doubt he’s one of the top players at the HBCU level and the whole of the FCS.
“Mark Evans II has been one of the most consistent offensive linemen in the FCS since his arrival to UAPB in 2018,” Draft HBCU evaluator and defensive line coach Gerald J. Huggins Jr. told Pro Football Network. “The SWAC conference has produced a lot of NFL talent in the trenches over the years, and Evans is right in line to be the next one to be playing on Sundays.”
The Shrine Bowl has partnered with Draft HBCU to identify and elevate talent from Historically Black Colleges and Universities with a range of initiatives that include the Shrine Bowl HBCU Players of the Week. Evans is the latest player to be highlighted by that partnership, helping boost the flood of national recognition for the Arkansas Pine-Bluff talent.
As Huggins alludes to, Evans has been asserting himself for Pine-Bluff since 2018. While many high school recruits see limited time in their college debut season, the dominant offensive tackle emerged as a true freshman out of C.E. King High School and has never looked back. The qualities he’s shown during his time with the Golden Lions make a transition to the NFL a natural next step.
“Evans has the perfect mix of strength, athleticism, and tenacity to be a great offensive lineman,” Huggins begins. “Primarily he has played left tackle, and that has been a great position for him. He seems very comfortable in his vertical pass set, he has strong hands when engaging with pass rushers. He’s very quick for his size, so he’s cutting off edge rushers from ‘the spot’ on most dropbacks.”
While it’s easy to get lured in by pass-protection ability at the tackle spot, Evans has a well-rounded game that helps him dominate in multiple facets. That was well-demonstrated in the Turkey Day Classic, where he helped the Golden Lions roar in the ground game on his way to being named one of the Shrine Bowl HBCU Players of the Week.
“When he’s ever in a situation where he is stalemated with a pass rusher, he then turns it into a run block and finishes,” Huggins explains. “Even as a run blocker, Evans is a finisher. He loves to play violent and take the defenders to the ground. He’s also good when he has to block linebackers and defensive backs in space.”
Huggins’ opinion on one of the Shrine Bowl HBCU Players of the Week is shared by multiple NFL draft analysts, including Pro Football Network’s Chief NFL Draft Analyst Tony Pauline. Pauline described Evans as “fundamentally sound” while praising his ability to “use his hands exceptionally well to control opponents at the point of attack.”
Meanwhile, Pauline enthusiastically described how Evans “annihilates defenders blocking in motion.”
While he’s been dominant at the FCS level, there are often concerns about how players transition from the level to the NFL. The overused and oft-incorrect assertions about “level of competition” are bound to rear their ugly head when discussing Evans’ NFL projection. According to Huggins, there are few worries there.
“There aren’t many tackles in the FCS that had to block [highly rated Florida A&M OLB] Isaiah Land, James Houston IV [now sacking QBs in the NFL for the Detroit Lions], Sundiata Anderson [Grambling State], Andrew Farmer [Lane College], and other dominant edge rushers on a weekly basis like Evans. I’d say he’s at the top of the list of FCS linemen coming out this year.”
Arkansas Pine-Bluff hasn’t had a player selected in the NFL Draft since 2013. According to Pro Football Network’s James Fragoza, “the drought ends in April.” Concurring with Huggins’ opinion about Evans’ next-level potential, Fragoza adds that the Golden Lions’ offensive tackle “could be the first HBCU player selected in the 2023 NFL Draft.”
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