When it comes to prominent national awards in college football, it’s not often that anyone in the Group of Five has a legitimate shot at bringing home the hardware. Strength of schedule and lack of national exposure are usually to blame, as standout players with nationally televised games get more recognition for their performances. When the rare non-Power 5 standout is in the conversation for an award like the Maxwell, that name is usually not coming from Monroe, Louisiana.
As we head into the 2018 season, that all could change. Earlier this summer, Warhawks quarterback Caleb Evans was named to the Maxwell Award watchlist. The headline was one that I originally shook off, as tons of talented players are named to this list every summer. Many of these players come from far bigger leagues and schools, giving them a huge advantage over a Sun Belt team when it comes to national recognition.
As I’ve taken the time to set my expectations for the upcoming season, the idea of Caleb Evans becoming a serious contender for this award is becoming more and more plausible in my head.
Looking at his numbers from last season, Evans threw for 2,868 yards and 17 touchdowns while completing 61.3% of his passes. Along with his impressive passing numbers, the sophomore ran for 579 yards and 13 touchdowns on 4.2 yards per carry. This is the kind of production that indicates a player is a centerpiece in the offensive scheme, and as Evans steps on the field for the first time as an upperclassman, one can only imagine how often he will get his number called.
In the era of dual-threat quarterbacks, Evans fits the mold. His numbers tell the story, and that was just his second year at the collegiate level. While the junior quarterback has developed into a productive and experienced player, so have those around him. The Warhawks will return three of their top receivers, four starters on the offensive line, and a former Alabama transfer at running back in Derrick Gore. Along with talent, chemistry is one of the biggest factors in an offense’s ability to move the football and put points on the board. Surrounding him, Caleb Evans has both.
Let’s not forget, this offense led the conference in scoring in 2017. That same team is bringing back the majority of its leading contributors, all who have another year of work in Matt Viator’s system. This is a coach and system that has proven time and time again that it can put up electrifying numbers, and with a star quarterback and arguably the best group of receivers in the conference, this year should be a step above normal expectations.
There is no question that this is one of the most hyped up ULM teams in the programs history, and a large part of that is due to Caleb Evans and the explosive Warhawk offense. With a serious chance to win the conference and reach a bowl game, Evans will have plenty of opportunities to lead his offense and prove he is the real deal.
Should this team, and more specifically the offense, live up to its expectations, Evans’ name in the Maxwell conversation doesn’t seem so ridiculous. We’re looking at a guy who just may put up 5,000 yards of total offense this coming season, and doing so with efficient numbers. Take the name and school away from the conversation, and the numbers Evans will put up this season easily belong in the conversation for some national hardware.