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BY NOW MITCHELL EVANS IS ACCUSTOMED TO SWITCHING POSITIONS. ¶ AT Milton-Union High in Ohio, he played both quarterback and safety, setting the school record for interceptions (luckily, as a safety). He arrived at Indiana three years ago as a quarterback, only to switch to safety midway through camp. Then, in his sophomore season, the Hoosiers sent Evans back to quarterback...until a few weeks into that 2008 preseason, when he moved to wide receiver.
A nomadic career, though, suits a guy who couldn't care less where he lines up as long as he gets to play the game he loves. And now Evans is on the move yet again. He played under center in the Wildcat formation last season, while also lining up wide as a receiver (33 catches for 366 yards and three touchdowns), but after coach Bill Lynch surveyed the bevy of talented wideouts on this season's roster last winter, Lynch turned to his favorite jack-of-all-trades. "There wasn't a lot of convincing that had to be done," Lynch says with a smile.
Now the quarterback turned safety turned quarterback turned wide receiver is back to playing safety, a position the Hoosiers desperately needed to fill after both starters from last season graduated. Says Lynch, "Some guys have skills, but they don't have the instincts. Other guys just love to compete, and Mitchell is one of those guys."
Lynch has a history of turning athletic seniors into valuable assets at positions different from the ones at which they originally committed. Last season Lynch switched speedster Ray Fisher from a starting receiver to a starting cornerback. Two years before that he helped Nick Polk—a receiver buried on the depth chart—become the starting free safety.
At 6' 3", 200 pounds Evans is built like a safety, and he clearly has some familiarity roaming around the secondary. Outside of the team's fifth-year quarterback, Ben Chappell, Evans says he might know the Hoosiers' playbook better than anyone. "I can draw almost every [play] on the board. The biggest thing now is getting reps and doing it physically," he says.
In doing those reps on the practice field Evans joked that he has had a bit of an advantage. Just months removed from being a focal point of the offense, the former quarterback is fluent in Chappell's lingo when he's calling plays at the line, a huge advantage for a defender.
"Yeah, Chapp is always giving me crap about how I know everything he's doing," Evans says. "If he makes a call or something and I hear it, I can't help it. But I try not to look for [the play] so I can learn our stuff and be prepared for games."
After sitting out spring practice with an ankle injury (one that he now reports is "all good"), Evans says the transition back to safety is going well.
"Switching positions takes a sacrifice. It shows you are about the team and where it's going," he says. "We have a lot of guys who would do the same."
But there aren't many who have the talent to do it. Chappell laughed when asked what position he might play if not quarterback. "Holder," he joked. "Maybe."