Starting Cornerbacks Locked Up?

It has been no secret that Glenn Sharpe will start at cornerback this season. What has not been decided is who will start at the other cornerback position. A trio of sophomores--Randy Phillips, Bruce Johnson, and Carlos Armour are looking to start at the other spot.

Randy Phillips made another interception today--his second this week and is doing very well thus far.

Phillips, who stands close to 6-foot-2 and weighs 200-203 pounds, said today's practice went well.

"It was good," Phillips said. "The offense showed some signs, but the defense dominated as usual."

Yesterday Coker said that Randy looked "really, really good" and was making "nice, physical, confident plays"

According to Phillips, one or two balls have been caught in his direction this week while he has deflected passes in addition to his interceptions.

"I've been using the safeties for help and just been playing ball," said Phillips, from Glades Central High School.

With Carlos Armour battling a hamstring injury, Bruce Johnson not playing at the level Coker would like, and the freshmen (Ryan Hill and Chavez Grant) showing their youth, Randy Phillips appears closer and closer to locking up the starting right cornerback position.

"My mindset is that I am the starting cornerback," Phillips said. "I'm our guy. I've proven it. I am steadily working real hard. My teammates trust me and it is no secret that me and Glenn Sharpe are going to do real big things with the help of guys behind us."

That is exactly the attitude a player needs to have playing cornerback.

"When you play corner you have to play with a lot of confidence and Randy is playing with a lot of confidence," Coker said.

Phillips goes about his business in a quiet, mature way. When he is on the field, he does what is asked and makes plays. As a freshman last August he had close to 10 interceptions to lead the team with Kenny Phillips.

A year ago Phillips entered the 2006 season with expectations of not wanting to redshirt and playing as much as possible. With a year under his belt, he is ready to take his game to another level.

"I know all of my plays and stuff now so that gives me the ability to take chances and make plays," Phillips said. "I am very confident and I got my speed better so I can run with anybody."

Last season, Phillips sprained his knee in the third game of the year causing him to miss three games. But now he has his speed back and does not have any problems with knee.

In June, he ran a high 4.4 in the 40-yard dash and started to feel like he was getting his speed back. Now he feels even faster..

"We have trained since then and my speed got better because it shows on the field," Phillips said. "I haven't let any deep balls since camps started. I just feel real good now. Last year you couldn't beat me underneath and this year you can't beat over the top or underneath."

Randy Phillips has the reputation as being a tough player. It is his strength--a strength that helps him excel as a cornerback.

"You got to be tough," he said. "You have to use your strengths. I am a big guy who is very strong and real good at the line of scrimmage and have to use that to slow guys down even if they are a little faster. Once you get tough with them and hit them, then you are in their mind and every time they come to that side they look for another way out at the line of scrimmage. You can intimidate them and be real physical with them."

As a player with big play potential, Phillips has a goal this season. He wants to record six interceptions--which matches his jersey number. Only 11 players in UM history have had at least six interceptions in a season (Ed Reed and Fred Marion did it twice) and most of them are safeties.

It will be a challenge for Phillips, who has no problems taking on challenges. Every day in practice he looks forward to his biggest challenge.

Phillips says senior wide receiver Darnell Jenkins is his toughest matchup in practice.

"He is the quickest," Phillips said. "He is real shifty and he competes every time. I like going up against Darnell because he works me the most and he is so shifty it makes me open up my waist, which is a good thing."

One of the strengths of the Hurricanes team is their depth at safety, which is extremely beneficial to a cornerbacks's success.

"Its real good knowing that you have Anthony Reddick, Kenny Phillips, Lovon Ponder, and Brandon Meriweather at safet," he said. "You got four guys that are the best in the country."

"A lot of people leave out Lovon Ponder, but they don't know he led the team in picks last year (with three). Lovon is a good safety. He is very smart. He is not the most athletic, but he knows his stuff."

Randy Phillips and the rest of the Hurricanes resume practice tomorrow morning. It will be their first practice in full pads.

Christopher Stock can be reached at stock@canestime.com

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