UK Football

UK coaches confident DE Evans will come around

Joker Phillips spoke to Dequin Evans (55) on the sideline. UK's coaches say Evans is putting too much pressure on himself.
Joker Phillips spoke to Dequin Evans (55) on the sideline. UK's coaches say Evans is putting too much pressure on himself.

The early numbers don't look good.

DeQuin Evans, a pre-season second-team all-Southeastern Conference selection who led Kentucky with six sacks last year, has played two games this season.

Not only does Evans not have a sack, he hasn't even registered a tackle.

UK Coach Joker Phillips and defensive line coach David Turner said Evans hasn't faced an abundance of double-teams.

So what's the problem?

Everybody agrees that Evans needs to make more plays for UK's defense to succeed, but there are no concrete answers as to why that's not happening.

Evans excelled in a complementary role to anchor Corey Peters last fall. Now he's having to adjust to life as the main man on the UK defensive front.

"I wouldn't say I'm thinking about things. I think I just worried about living up to the hype," Evans said. "I'm cool with the pressure, but at first I wasn't used to that. I wasn't used to being looked upon that way. I'm doing what I've got to do. I'm playing my assignments and gaps. A lot of times the ball just doesn't come my way."

Evans did have a big play against Louisville, stuffing Bilal Powell for a 3-yard loss at the UK 8-yard line, but that was wiped out by a Cardinals holding penalty.

Evans had at least one tackle in every game last year, but his big plays were sporadic. He had two sacks against Louisville in the second game and one against Alabama in the fourth, then went four consecutive games without a sack. Ten of his 12.5 tackles for loss came in four games (Louisville, Louisiana-Monroe, Eastern Kentucky, Tennessee).

"A lot of times with defensive linemen it comes in spurts," Turner said. "I'm not worried about it. He's going to end up having a bunch of tackles, and he'll end up with a bunch of sacks."

Phillips and Turner said that a defensive lineman's play often has to be measured beyond the numbers.

"We look at what he does for the defense," Turner said. "Is he doing what he's supposed to do, is he where he's supposed to be at, manning the right place? Sometimes he won't have big numbers. A lot of times it depends on what the offense is doing. If he doesn't have a chance to be at the point of attack and make plays, he's not going to have big numbers."

Evans admitted his pass-rushing hasn't been sufficient. "There's no reason I shouldn't be getting to the quarterback on passing downs," he said.

But Turner said the defense has to get opposing offenses into obvious passing downs more frequently. UK has forced just seven third-and-10 (or longer) situations through two games.

"We have to give ourselves a chance to rush the quarterback a little bit," he said. "It's a whole lot easier to call a defense on third-and-10 or longer than it is third-and-2."

Turner said he talked to Evans on Monday and told him that the worst thing he can do is start to worry about his statistics.

"The big thing is he can't start pressing," Turner said. "He's just got to play within the defense, play within himself, don't worry about what everybody else is saying.

"I told him yesterday, 'You just listen to me. We'll be fine. We'll play through this. Relax. Don't press and try and do more than the defense calls for.'"

Evans said the talk with Turner helped.

"He knows what kind of player I am," Evans said. "My teammates and coaches do too. Sometimes in my mind I'm like, 'Man, I've got to make more plays.' I feel when I think like that, that's when I take myself out of the box and don't make plays instead of going out there and playing football and letting the plays come to me."

Defensive coordinator Steve Brown is much like Turner in that he thinks the light will ultimately switch for Evans.

"He's working hard but he needs to play better," Brown said. "We all need to play better. It's not just him, even though he's one of our marquee guys on defense. It's just a lot of little things. But he's a phenomenal young man with a great work ethic. It'll happen."

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