NASHVILLE — You won’t like him when he’s angry.
Rashaan Evans’ nickname is Razor, a moniker given to him by his position coach, Tosh Lupoi, but Saturday afternoon it might as well have been Hulk Smash.
The last time Evans was on a football field, he walked out of Mercedes-Benz Stadium with a groin injury. Leaving the stadium that night, he looked a mix between dejected and angry.
For the senior linebacker, who knew 2017 was his year to come into his own and step out of the shadow of other great Alabama linebackers, Evans was morose about losing any games to injury.
He took all that emotion and pent-up aggression and planted it right into the chest of Vanderbilt offensive lineman Bailey Granier in the first quarter. The hit deposited Granier onto the field turf and made for happy slow-motion viewing for Crimson Tide fans.
“I had a little juice,” Evans joked. “Just being out for two weeks, you kind of get some pushups in, some sit-ups, so you feel pretty good out there.”
Evans was back, and he played with controlled aggression.
“(It was my) welcome back play,” Evans said.
Evans didn’t have a huge statistical night (he was credited for one solo tackle), but statistics don’t tell the story. Statistics can’t account for emotion and leadership.
“He was in everybody’s ear the whole game keeping us pumped,” junior safety Ronnie Harrison said.
Missing the last two weeks (and the second half of the season opener against Florida State) had an affect on Evans. He stewed a little, but then he turned his situation into a positive. He used his rehabilitation and time away as an active participant on the practice field to take mental repetitions. He also watched his teammates and stayed active by going through their reps in his mind.
“I sure did. Just going through my plays and some of things I’d be doing if I was out there. Just watching Keith Holcombe and Shaun Dion (Hamilton) and those guys it helped me stay in the game mind-set wise,” Evans said.
After the previous week’s defensive performance against Colorado State, which has been dissected frame by frame by Alabama fans, Evans’ return helped spark the defense on emotion alone.
“We really just wanted to play with passion,” he said. “That’s what I told the guys. We have to play with passion like we love this game. I felt like we did that this game.
“It was just a burst of excitement. It’s what I thought we needed to get back to, just having fun with this game. Last week I feel like we weren’t having fun with it.
“I want to provide energy any way I can. Even when I’m not in the game I try to provide energy. I feel like those guys feed off that and play better.”
As for the injury, he still doesn’t feel all the way back. From that standpoint, he feels as if his play will get better and better.
“Physically I’m still kind of sore,” Evans said. “I’m recovering from that injury. It’s only going to get better over time. The more and more I play the more loose I’m going to get. I’m continuing to learn how to play on it.”
Reach Aaron Suttles at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 205-722-0229