But that’s not Phillips’ style. That’s not his game.
In the new three-man defensive front, Phillips has a perfect niche for Oklahoma.
“He’s 6-5, 330-some pounds, generally on the center is not always one on one. Guards are usually coming to help, but he’s got a lot of physical presence in there on the center,” Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said.
In the Sooners’ 3-4 defense, Phillips should be hidden. He should be relegated to taking up space, taking on blocks and holding on to double teams.
He does all of that, but he finds his way into the opponent’s backfield with relative ease.
“I’m always wanting to go out there and make plays, but as long as I’m helping my defense, I’m good,” Phillips said.
Phillips has just 16 tackles and only 2.5 tackles for loss, but it’s his unrecorded impact that makes the biggest difference. He’s taking on double teams, which he finds flattering, and when he’s one-on-one with a center, there’s really no competition.
One on one, no interior lineman can block Phillips.
“Just being athletic, as I am, and being able to have a little free reign,” Phillips said. “Having that center one-on-one, it’s a lot easier to do what I think I’m supposed to do.”
Oklahoma (5-1, 2-1 Big 12) has been disruptive on defense all season, and it starts with Phillips in the middle.
From there, Oklahoma has a top-4 Big 12 rushing defense. Phillips is satisfied with that stat, but he knows the Sooners have to get better in pass defense.
A stronger pass rush can do exactly that and help Oklahoma get off the field on third down, something the Sooners have struggled with through the Big 12 season.
“We’re stopping the run pretty well,” Phillips said. “We just have to get more pressure. We have to find a way to get more pressure on the quarterback and help out our back end.”