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Wisconsin had put some distance between itself and other contenders for four-star defensive tackle commit Craig Evans over the last several months, but a weekend official visit to Arkansas has closed the gap.
Evans committed to Arkansas' head coach, Bret Bielema, when Bielema was at Wisconsin, so the familiarity with the coaching staff was in place. What Evans was unfamiliar with was the Arkansas campus and surroundings, and he got a good look at those aspects of the program during his visit.
"It was a great time," Evans said. "Fayetteville is a beautiful place, a beautiful campus and great facilities. I had no clue their facilities were brand new like that. It was just an overall great experience."
Redshirt freshman defensive end JaMicheal Winston was one of Evans' player-hosts for the weekend. Evans grew up in Mississippi before moving to Sun Prairie, Wis., so he felt at home around the Southern culture.
"A couple of the guys I was with were from Mississippi or Alabama or that region," Evans said. "We all got along well, and it was just great to be around people I could relate to more. I felt comfortable, didn't feel out of my square at all. I felt like I had already known those guys, and that's just how Southern people are."
One of the biggest highlights of the weekend for Evans was when the players and recruits went to a legendary Fayetteville restaurant, the Catfish Hole.
"That place is insane," Evans said. "First off, they have some of the best food. The Catfish Hole has some of the best hush puppies in the world, if you ask me.
"Then the fans there were just live. I had no clue what was going on, but as soon as we went in they were calling the Hogs. That was a great feeling that people had that much love for their [team]."
Defensive line coach Charlie Partridge was another big reason Evans committed to Wisconsin a year ago. The two discussed how the 6-foot-2, 313-pound defensive tackle would fit in with the scheme Partridge is running at Arkansas.
"Even though they do play the three-technique, I do see myself fitting in there well," Evans said. "Three of the defensive linemen are leaving, so the opportunity for me playing would be very great. My chances of playing there my freshman year are extremely high."
Although Arkansas made a strong impression on Evans last weekend, it was not enough for him to immediately abandon his commitment to Wisconsin.
"I am still with Wisconsin right now, but Arkansas is definitely a school that is right there," he said. "I am definitely putting a lot of thought into it.
"I told Coach Bielema and Coach Partridge that when I originally committed to Wisconsin those guys were 65, 70 percent of the reason I committed, but the other percent was because of the environment. Wisconsin is a great place, too, and I have ridiculous love up here too."
Evans said he has no timetable for making a final call on the college where he will continue his career, but he says it will not be an easy choice.
"It's going to be a tough decision," Evans said. "I know I was telling people I just had to go down there and see if Fayetteville is the place for me, and I could definitely see myself fitting in there. As of right now it wasn't enough to steal me from Wisconsin, but [Arkansas] is definitely right there and I'm most definitely considering those guys.
"I'm going to talk it over with God, talk it over with my girlfriend to see what she thinks, talk it over with some of my family to see what those guys are thinking, and I'm going to base it off of that."
A number of other schools have been recruiting Evans throughout the spring and summer, but as he heads into the fall his focus is on two schools.
"As of right now, it is just Arkansas and Wisconsin," Evans said. "I am going to go out to Michigan State and check those guys out because I did like it when I went there in the summer, but right now it is just Wisconsin and Arkansas."
Evans is not sure of a possible date for a Michigan State visit, but he is sure he will be attending Wisconsin's next home game this weekend when the Badgers host Purdue.
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