Notre Dame starts pursuit of Tulsa CB grad transfer Akayleb Evans

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

Notre Dame’s interest in adding a grad transfer at the cornerback position became clear Monday night.

That’s when former Tulsa cornerback Akayleb Evans tweeted that he received an offer to play for the Irish.

It was a busy week in the transfer portal for Evans, who shared his first transfer offer from Kansas State on May 11. Since then, Texas Tech, Louisville, Oregon State, West Virginia, Mississippi State, SMU, TCU, Minnesota, Washington State, Nebraska, Jackson State and Notre Dame joined Evans’ offer list.

The 6-foot-2, 188-pound Evans played in 30 games, started 23 of them and recorded 73 tackles and 11 pass breakups in four seasons at Tulsa. His junior season in 2019 was cut short after three games due to a shoulder injury. Evans rebounded with 29 tackles and three pass breakups in his nine starts last season.

Because he missed so much time as a junior and the NCAA’s COVID-19 exemption, Evans still has two years of immediate eligibility remaining at the transfer destination of his choice.

In 2020, Tulsa ranked No. 20 in the FBS in pass efficiency defense with Evans and Jim Thorpe Award semifinalist Allie Green IV as its starting cornerbacks. The Irish ranked No. 34 in pass efficiency defense with NC State grad transfer Nick McCloud and freshman Clarence Lewis finishing the season as the starting cornerbacks.

McCloud, who was signed earlier this month by the Buffalo Bills as an undrafted free agent, became the second grad transfer cornerback to find success during head coach Brian Kelly’s tenure at Notre Dame. Cornerback Cody Riggs, who transferred from Florida in 2014, started 11 games at cornerback in his one season with the Irish.

Notre Dame’s lack of cornerback experience on the 2021 roster likely influenced the decision to pursue Evans. Lewis, who started six games last season, and senior TaRiq Bracy, who has eight career starts, are the only cornerbacks with significant playing experience. The rest of the depth chart consists of junior Cam Hart, sophomores Ramon Henderson and Caleb Offord and freshmen Philip Riley, Ryan Barnes, Chance Tucker and JoJo Johnson.

Kelly spoke highly of the progress made by Hart and Henderson this spring.

“Both these guys have elite traits — long, athletic, the ability to play the ball,” Kelly said last month. “Both of them were wide receivers. Both have excellent speed. ... When you line them up, those two look as good as anybody in the country.”

Adding Evans to the mix would give the Irish another option at a position looking for immediate help.

Former Tulsa cornerback Akayleb Evans, pictured defending Texas wide receiver Devin Duvernay in 2018, received a scholarship offer from Notre Dame as a graduate transfer candidate.