Ole Miss Coach Ed Orgeron walked into a recent post-practice press conference and began fielding questions.
Who is showing up at linebacker, Coach?
"Jonathan Cornell is holding down the middle well. Antonio Turner and Ashlee Palmer are in a battle for the Sam LB slot," he said, "and Jamie Phillips is doing a good job at Will LB."
Uh, who, Coach? Jamie Phillips? Who is that?
The name didn't register, but it should have - he's a local product, hailing from Lafayette County HS and was "best friends" with highly-recruited Justin Woodall, who signed with Alabama.
Jamie Phillips - 6-0, 220, 4.6. . . a young man who made a lot of plays for the Commodores during his high school career and the Northwest CC Rangers last season, his lone season in JUCO ball.
"When I didn't get offered by a big school, I decided to play one season of junior college ball and transfer somewhere in the SEC," said the rising sophomore walkon. "It turned out that Ole Miss gives me the best opportunity with their linebacker situation being kind of thin."
Phillips has been a pleasant surprise halfway through spring drills and has been mentioned more than once by Orgeron in his post-practice discussions.
"I think I've done OK. The practices and workouts are longer and harder than in junior college or high school, but it's been fine," smiled the soft-spoken man of few words. "It's been hot and it's not even summer yet. I'm having to adjust to the artificial turf in the stadium."
Phillips said when he graduated from LHS, he agreed with NWCC to play one season. He was a qualifier out of high school so he could transfer anywhere he wanted to at mid-semester.
He was a welcome addition to linebacker-depleted Ole Miss.
"I did OK at Northwest. I started and made some plays. I don't keep up with stats though," said Jamie. "I think I had more than 80 tackles and played outside LB and middle LB. I also returned a couple of kicks."
Jamie transferred to Ole Miss in January and went to work in the offseason. When he reported, he was 210 pounds. By the end of the offseason workouts prior to spring training, he was up to 222.
"I figured out through half of spring I need to be around 230. 220, you can get by, but I want to do better than get by," he continued.
He said the same things most players who come into the SEC say after some practices - speed is the difference.
"Everything moves faster. On the field and off. You have to adjust. It's a whole lot faster - everything is more time-consuming and intense," said Phillips. "In the offseason, I gained strength and weight and I feel faster, but I have to prove everything on the field now."
Jamie said he's fairly tuned in to the defensive system and is confident in his knowledge of what the coaches are teaching.
"It took me about three weeks to learn it. Now, I've got it," he noted. "The reads are the hardest part. In high school, we always read the line. Now we read the tailback. It's different, but not that hard. The fits are also difficult to execute until you get your technique down."
Right now, Jamie is working with the number one unit and is in a battle with recently-moved Safety Allen Walker. (Don Hargroder started spring at number one but was injured in the first week of spring training and is out for the rest of spring.)
What has gotten Jamie to the point of being recognized by the coaches?
"I keep quiet and do what the coaches say to do," Phillips said. "They really don't know I am there until I make a play. I work hard and keep my mouth closed.
"Speed and instincts are my strengths. I think I move well and I catch on quickly to what is being taught, I believe," he said.
Phillips is in hopes of making enough of an impression to earn a scholarship. In his mind, so far, so good.
"Everything is going good so far. I think I am making a statement to earn a scholarship, but I realize I have to do more," Jamie closed. "I need to get my techniques down and I need to finish plays better. When I get that down, I will feel very good about myself."
Meanwhile, the coaches are already noticing his presence.
And those who cover Ole Miss for a living now know who Jamie Phillips is.
Jamie Phillips update -
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