Tulsa transfers bring leadership, experience to Mizzou secondary
After Allie Green IV announced his intention to transfer to Missouri in June, the Tiger support staff needed to find him a place to live in Columbia. That didn’t figure to be too difficult; everybody assumed he’d want to live with fellow former Tulsa defensive back Akayleb Evans. After all, Evans and Green had come to Tulsa in the same recruiting class, and a major factor in Green’s commitment was the fact that Evans had announced he would transfer to Missouri five days prior.
There was just one problem. Green owns two ball pythons — an albino female named Desire and a male named Gigolo — and he had no plans to leave them behind. Evans wasn’t too keen on the idea of sharing his apartment with snakes.
“I was like, look, we’re real close, but he has snakes,” Evans said with a laugh. “I don’t know if I’m really trying to live with him.”
Evans and Green wound up getting separate single apartments in Columbia. However, their feelings about serpents aside, the defensive back duo has grown closer than ever as they’ve prepared to spend their final college season in a new place. Even before donning pads for the first time at Missouri, Evans and Green have made their mark, bringing experience and leadership to an otherwise young secondary.
“I think they just bring a veteran leadership to our group, bring some experience and definitely help the change in terms of culture,” cornerbacks coach Aaron Fletcher said. “I think they’ll definitely be a tremendous help for us there.”
Fletcher, too, made the move from Tulsa to Missouri during the offseason. Eli Drinkwitz hired him to replace former cornerbacks coach David Gibbs, who left for Central Florida, in February.
When he departed Tulsa, Fletcher didn’t have any inkling he might coach Evans and Green again. He actually expected both players to end their college careers and declare for the NFL Draft. Instead, both Evans and Green opted to utilize the extra season of eligibility provided to all players by the NCAA as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic to prove themselves on a larger stage than the American Athletics Conference. Evans submitted his name to the transfer portal on May 11, and Green followed suit 13 days later.
It didn’t take long for Evans to hear from a long list of schools, including the likes of Texas, Notre Dame, Georgia and Texas Tech. Missouri, which saw cornerbacks Jarvis Ware and JaDarrius Perkins both enter the transfer portal following the conclusion of spring practices, jumped into the fray, as well. Evans called picking a new school “a really tough decision” but said the presence of Fletcher at Missouri ultimately sealed the deal. Not only had he known Fletcher since Tulsa started recruiting him as a high school prospect, he trusted Fletcher to shoot straight with him about what the Tiger program had to offer.
“It was a really tough decision, when it came down to it, but I was familiar with him,” Evans said of Fletcher. “I’ve known him since I was a junior in high school, so you can’t really beat that. When you’re familiar with somebody and you know how they work and you know how they operate, it makes the decision easier. And he was upfront about what’s going on here and how things are ran and the way I could be utilized and help the team.”
Evans finalized his commitment on June 11. To that point, Missouri hadn’t expressed much interest in Green. In fact, Green said his mind was pretty much set on committing elsewhere. But about an hour after Evans announced his pledge on Twitter, Missouri extended an offer to his former teammate. At that point, Green said the idea of reuniting with Evans and Fletcher in Columbia felt “almost like a dream.”
“I got the Mizzou offer, and it’s like me and Akayleb can finally finish what we started together, and that just changed the whole everything,” Green said. “I’m going somewhere I know with somebody who I’ve been working with for four years, like a mentor, and then my bro got to come, too. And that changed the whole thing. So it made me just have a sharp decision on coming to Mizzou.”
Since Green officially announced that he’d join Evans in Columbia, the duo has generally been lumped together: “the Tulsa transfers.” That’s alright with them. The personalities of Green and Evans differ, but Evans said they complement one another “like the yin and the yang.”
Green is the more gregarious of the two, as evidenced Thursday when he amused local media members with descriptions of his pet snakes. (He explained that snakes appeal to him because he doesn’t like dogs, and he views the low-maintenance reptiles as “completely opposite from a dog.”) On the field, Evans said Green is an energetic, vocal leader.
Evans, on the other hand, is a bit more stoic. He typically leads by example, although he’s not afraid to speak up when someone needs to be held accountable. Green said he’s funny in an understated way. (Evans, too, is unique away from the field. As a high school student, he formed the Akayleb Evans Foundation in an effort to give back to those in need in his hometown of McKinney, Texas, and last year he announced the formation of a scholarship funded by him and his family that will be presented annually to one McKinney high student-athlete.)
The fact that Evans and Green have been able to combine their strengths and lean on one another as they’ve adjusted to life at Missouri and learned a new defense has eased the transition.
“It’s uncomfortable sometimes to be somewhere that’s different and to have change,” Evans said. “But when you have somebody that you’ve known for years to be able to walk that with you, it means so much. I feel like you can get adjusted quicker, and they can help you with any issues that you might have, and you can help them.”
So far, the two transfers have impressed the Tiger staff. Both Fletcher and defensive coordinator Steve Wilks said they don’t think either player will have to drastically adjust his game to compete in the SEC. They’ll have to learn the new scheme, of course, and Evans did note that they didn’t play much zone coverage at Tulsa, which Wilks has promised to implement at Missouri. But Fletcher noted that Green and Evans have proven that they can hang with Power Five receivers. Across the past two seasons, the Golden Hurricane faced three high-major opponents and held each under 200 passing yards.
The Missouri staff will hope that Evans and Green can step into the roles of Ware and Joshuah Bledsoe, who started at nickelback each of the past two seasons. But their leadership ability might be just as important as their cover skills. Evans and Green join a cornerback room that doesn’t feature a single other scholarship player who has spent more than a year on a college campus. Wilks said he’s already noticed Evans and Green pushing their fellow defensive backs to work out with more intensity and put themselves through drills outside of practice.
“To be quite honest, I think they have taken our level of competition and how guys approach things to a whole new level with them coming here,” Wilks said. “Because the intensity on the defensive side of the ball, particularly in the defensive back room, has picked up.”
Both Evans and Green were clear about their goals for this year. They want to play in the NFL, and they plan to use their final seasons to boost their draft stocks on the SEC stage. But just as important, Evans said, is passing on some of the wisdom they’ve accrued across four college seasons to the young players in Missouri’s secondary. So far, so good.
“I’m coming in with the expectation to be a leader and just show guys how to do things the right way,” he said. “There’s a lot of young guys in the locker room that I feel like I can mentor in my season here, and for myself, expectation is playing to the best of my ability. I’m a vet now. I know how to go about my business. So I’m just trying to do things the right way and leave a mark here.”