Role Change for Phillips

Junior safety Kenny Phillips is one of the most recognized members of the Hurricanes. He has been named to several preseason All American teams, has anchored the defensive back unit for the last two years, and had good things to say about the team's progress after practice today.

"Each day everyone is making progress and getting better, offensively and defensively," Kenny Phillips said after practice. "We're on the right track."

"Just seeing the guys fight through the heat and doing all the running we have do is great. Just the guys competing, that's a good sign."

Today the team practiced in shells. Usually, practicing in shells means that there's a bit of extra contact as both sides of the balls prepare themselves for the full contact sessions, which begin on Wednesday. Phillips spoke about getting more physical in practice.

"Very, very physical," he said about the tone of practice today. "Guys got tired of touching off and they finally got a chance to hit somebody so that's what we were doing."

Has Phillips gotten any big hits off in practice yet now that the pads are on?

"Nah," he said while chuckling. "I try not to hit my teammates in practice."

Phillips, like most of the other defensive players, had nothing but good things to say about the offense, which by all accounts has performed very well during the last few days of practice. Today was no exception.

"They're showing us a lot of new looks, there's a lot of moving around and things like that. I don't want to say too much, but expect something new."

Lovon Ponder has taken most of the reps with the first team at the other safety position. Last year, Ponder started opposite Phillips, and the two have developed good chemistry.

"I've been playing next to him for a while. We know each other well. I'm very confident. We know what we like and what we don't like, like what positions we don't like to be in and stuff like that. It's basically easy right now."

In scrimmages thus far, Phillips has usually been resigned to coverage responsibilities while Ponder stays closer to the box, although occasionally he'll fly in to make a stop on a running play. In years past, Phillips was moved around to various positions. He played strong safety, free safety, and even some cornerback. This fall, Phillips has been given a chance to be more of a centerfielder. He will predominantly play free safety, which will give him a chance to create more interceptions, something he has not really had the opportunity to do thus far in his career as a Hurricane.

"I'm going to be playing mainly free safety," Phillips said. "I won't be getting as much contact but I'll have a chance to make more interceptions so that'll be nice."

"Most of the time I was in the box and didn't have a chance to roam the field. This'll give me more of a chance. This year they're going to give me the opportunity so we'll see what happens."

That's not to say Phillips will shy away from contact this season. In fact, one of his main strengths is the ability to creep up into the box and help contain the run. Ask Phillips if he prefers playing back in coverage or bumping heads with linemen and running backs, and he'll give you a short and sweet answer.

"I like the box better," he says with a smile.

Canes Time Top Stories