OSU Football: Phillips Rapidly Improving

Justin Phillips redshirted a year ago but has moved from weak-side linebacker to the middle and is taking advantage of his opportunity to show what he can do this spring.

Oklahoma State was back on the practice field Monday as they approach the midway point of spring football 2016. The Cowboys had a close to two-and-a half-hour practice in full pads that included all the good stuff such as inside drill and pass pro for the big guys and linebackers and safeties and for the skill positions there was seven-on-seven and one-on-one and at the conclusion a really lengthy team period of ones vs. ones and twos vs. twos.

This looked like the kind of practice head coach Mike Gundy, who viewed much of it from high above the Sherman Smith Training Center, was thinking of when he talked about the goal of getting in 12 really good practices for the spring.

In the inside drill there was give and take on both sides but running back Chris Carson was able to break around the outside for two big runs, plays were he was not tackled and had some good running room.

The defense had really had the better day of it last Friday in the final practice of the second week of the spring, and as so often happens the other side of the ball rebounds the next time out. In the team period, the offense had some fireworks with Jalen McCleskey making a big play and that was followed by a touchdown run up the middle by Rennie Childs.

Then off play-action a long touchdown pass from starting quarterback Mason Rudolph to James Washington. Later on Rudolph had another scoring connection with Jhajuan Seales. It was a good day for the offense, but squeezed into the team period early was a defensive highlight. 

Didn't you love the power and the hitting prowess of Justin Phillips his freshman season at weak-side linebacker? He ended up having to play a lot of snaps in the 38-35 overtime Bedlam win in Norman. The 6-0 and then 225-pound Phillips had 10 tackles, seven unassisted in that game. Now 235 pounds and having moved inside to play middle linebacker, the Pearland High School product scooped and scored on a fumble in team period on Monday.

"I'm feeling pretty good," Phillips said last week. "Like I said earlier, there is always room for improvement and I'm getting back into football shape, getting into pads and hitting. It feels pretty good."

It had to feel even better scooping the fumble against the first-team offense and taking off down the sideline to the end zone.

In his freshman season Phillips had 18 tackles overall playing both special teams and pressed into duty against OU. Then last season with the surplus of linebackers at the start of the season he took a redshirt. Phillips added 10 pounds of muscle, studied the game, and now he is ready to play a major role.

Depth is so important on defense in a league that has offenses that routinely aim for 100 plays or more in a game. To play you have to earn the trust of linebackers coach and defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer.

"He does expect a lot out of you," Phillips said. "He has ways of making you to want to play harder out there for each other. It is not as bad as everybody thinks cause he is a great coach but sometimes he will get on you and make you play harder."

Scrimmage Looks Like Friday

Originally the Cowboys were expected to scrimmage on Wednesday but it now appears they will hold off and have their first major scrimmage of the spring on Friday. 

McGuinness Lineman Owen Condon at Practice

Oklahoma City Bishop McGuinness offensive tackle prospect Owen Condon was at the Oklahoma State practice with is mother, Sheri. Condon is impressive at 6-7 and 270 pounds and very athletic looking. He appears to be a player that could easily add muscle to his frame. I saw Condon play several times last season and his long arms coupled with his ability and good habits of moving his feet kept him locked on targets. I know I did not see him give up a sack or even lose a player he was blocking on the edge. 

It is early in the process and he has just one offer so far in Ohio, but hold on because this is just the type of player that will pick up recruiting steam when the college coaches come through for evaluations at the end of spring practices. 


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