MADISON – When Sun Prairie senior defensive tackle Craig Evans re-affirmed his verbal commitment to the University of Wisconsin football team earlier this month, it figured to finally put an end to what has been a long and drawn-out recruiting process.
But the recruitment of Evans has featured several twists and turns and it happened again recently with speculation he could wind up at Michigan State.
However, on Wednesday, one week before signing day, Sun Prairie coach Brian Kaminski said he still expects Evans to sign with the Badgers.
“He’s still going to Wisconsin,” Kaminski said. “I know Michigan State has been talking to him, but I think Wisconsin is where he wants to go.”
Kaminski said Evans went to East Lansing, Mich., last weekend with Sun Prairie fullback Aaron Fischer, who is being recruited as a preferred walk-on by the Spartans. They apparently attended a basketball game together.
“I know Michigan State’s been after (Evans) he’s been up there a couple times,” Kaminski said. “But he’s still got a commitment, it’s still Wisconsin. It’s where he feels his home is and everything else.”
The other issue has to do with academics and whether Evans will qualify to get into UW.
But Kaminski said there has been progress in that area.
Grades at Sun Prairie for the previous semester came out this week. Kaminski said Evans got an A, four Bs and a D in his core classes.
“If he studies a little bit more and does what he needs to do with his core classes this semester, I do think he can make it,” Kaminski said. “But, ultimately, it’s going to be up to him to go ahead and do that and get done what he needs to do.
“He had a good semester this semester. He had one D, which isn’t great, but the rest are four Bs and an A in his core classes. That’s big.”
Division I uses a sliding scale to match test scores and core grade-point average. Evans will be taking the standardized test again in the coming months, according to Kaminski.
Asked if Evans is moving in the right direction, Kaminski said, “I think he’s capable of qualifying. ... I don’t think it’s a long shot.”
Evans originally committed to UW in September 2012. He de-committed after the coaching change the following December. He then re-committed last March but still ended up taking official visits to Michigan State and Arkansas.
After the latest re-commitment in early January, Evans talked about the bond he developed with new UW coach Gary Andersen and a heart-to-heart conversation they shared over breakfast during an official visit in mid-December.
“It came down to the coaches,” Evans told BadgerNation.com at the time. “When I sat down and had that breakfast with coach Andersen, he said some things that really touched my heart. He wanted to be that mentor in my life. He wanted to get by my side and help me.”
Evans had a difficult childhood growing up in Mississippi. He was abandoned at a shelter when he was 6 months old and eventually was raised by an aunt. He moved to Sun Prairie in ninth grade to live with an older brother.
Kaminski has long maintained Evans would be best-suited to stay close to home and the support network he has established in the area, including the new coaching staff at UW.
“Him and coach Andersen feel pretty good about each other,” Kaminski said. “They’ve come in and shared enough time together, (Evans) has had a chance to get to know (Andersen). I think it’s been big for him to build that relationship and grow as a person and see what that staff’s all about. ...
“It’s good to have coaches that care about you beyond just football and I think Wisconsin has done a good job of letting him know that.”
Evans, 6-foot-3, 310 pounds, is rated as a four-star defensive tackle by Scout.com and the No. 16 player nationally at his position. Rivals.com also lists him as a four-star recruit and the No. 11 player at his position.
As a senior at Sun Prairie, Evans didn’t put up big statistics, but Kaminski compared that situation to the former Badgers nose guard Beau Allen, who was a senior last season.
“I really think the kid has got a lot of athletic ability,” Kaminski said of Evans, who was timed in 4.8 seconds flat in the 40-yard dash during a camp last summer. “It’s kind of like Beau Allen you don’t realize the impact Beau Allen has on these games, because of what he’s asked to do, beating double- and triple-teams and all of these other people are making plays.
“A lot of that has to do with Beau doing his job. It’s kind of along the same lines with Craig, he’s getting double and triple teamed, which opens up holes for everybody else.”
While Evans has talked about having a girlfriend in the area, Kaminski doesn’t think that will be a significant factor in the decision.
“She’s a good girl and all of that,” Kaminski said. “I don’t know what her college plans or aspirations are. I’m sure it’s somebody he can confide in and talk a little bit to, because unfortunately, he doesn’t have much of that at home. It’s just another person for him to share some ideas with and talk to, I’m sure.”
Kaminski acknowledged Evans still has work to do for all of this to turn out positively in the end. But the coach remains optimistic it will happen.
“It’s not solid yet, but I think he can get there,” Kaminski said. “It’s more of a wait-and-see type of thing. Nobody can say 100 percent right now but I think if he does what he’s capable of doing here this next semester and everything else, I do think he’ll be all right.”