Interactive Q&A: Andrew Phillips

In Stanford's bread-and-butter play, power, it's a guard who has arguably the toughest assignment: pull around the center, beat the defender to the point of attack, block him out of the way and make the play work. It stands to reason then that guard Andrew Phillips deserves as much credit as anyone for making Stanford's 2009 offense click, and Wyndam Makowsky sits down with him this week.

The Bootleg, Q: The offensive line has been good at both run and pass protection. Where do you feel you're best?

Andrew Phillips, A: Overall, the thing that's separated us from lines in the past is that we used to be better at one or the other, but this year, we're pretty solid at both. It's a good strength for us an offensive line.

Q: And you individually?

A: Probably run blocking, that's more of my forte.

Q: On that individual level, who are some of the toughest players you've faced this year?

A: Brian Price from UCLA. He's a hell of a player. He's going to be an NFL guy for sure. He's one of those guys with the rare speed and power combination that makes a good defensive tackle. He's a handful.

Q: What do you see as the biggest challenge against Cal in the trenches?

A: They run a 3-4. It's an untraditional defense, and they'll give some looks where they're all standing up and trying to confuse you a little bit. But we have a good game plan, and if we stay locked in to what we're doing, we'll be all right.

Q: This year, have there been any blocks that have been particularly satisfying? Any ones that stick out in your mind?

A: Anytime I can see Toby break one, it gives me all the satisfaction I need.

Q: Talking about Toby, how different is it to block for Toby versus other backs? Does your mentality change or are you doing the same thing, regardless of who is in the backfield?

A: All of our backs are really talented, they all read blocks well. But Toby probably wrote the book on patience and run blocking. He uses blocks so well. He's patient in that he'll wait for a block, and he knows it's going to be there, and he'll hit it once the block is there. He's a special back.

Q: What's the difference so far in playing under Coach Roman versus Coach Dalman? Have there been any big changes in the transition? Has it been fairly similar?

A: They're very similar. They're great teachers of the game, great mentors, great people. They really are professional in how they go about things. Chris Dalman, Greg Roman and Tim Drevno are three of the biggest impacts on my game, personally, and all three are great coaches.

Q: You've had a breakout year. Where have you seen yourself improve since your freshman season?

A: A big thing Coach Dalman told me was to be poised and confident, no matter what happened on the play before, no matter what's in your mind. Just be poised and confident on every play. That was a big part of learning how to play at this level. Every play, no matter what, you have to have poise and confidence that carries with you.

Q: Going back even further than your freshman year, when you were being recruited, what originally drew you to Stanford?

A: I wanted to go to Notre Dame for awhile. A lot of my mom's family goes to Notre Dame. When Coach Willingham left there, one of his offensive line coaches, John McDonnell, came to Stanford. He called me up one day and said, "Hey, I'm at Stanford now, if you're interested, give me a call." I'm from the East Coast, so initially, I wasn't interested —- I wanted to stay closer to home. But my dad convinced me to check it out. It's Stanford. The Stanford name is so huge. Then I got out here and didn't look back. I really, really grew a liking to California, the Bay Area, the coaches, the people, and especially the guys on the team. The guys on the team stood out to me more than anything.

Q: Speaking of that, how close is the line off the field? On the field, you appear as close as a unit can get. Off the field, are you friends?

A: We're all great friends. Whether it's lifting together, doing 6 a.m.'s together, competing with each other, or stupid stuff like o-linemen dinners that we do every week, we're always hanging out with each other.

Q: Can you describe Andrew Luck's progression this year, and what that does for you as an offensive line?

A: He's a great player. We're getting a lot of accolades, and we're getting a lot of attention, but a lot of it falls on him. A lot of it falls on him making great decisions and putting us in the right spot, picking the right spot, getting the right kills, and evading pressure when he does get pressured. He's done a great job; I'm really proud of him.

Q: You have a relatively young line, especially with Jonathan Martin and David DeCastro. What have you seen in their progression as redshirt freshmen?

A: Both of them have done a phenomenal job of playing above their years. I did not have that level of maturity or savvy when I was that young of a player. They both exhibit a savvy, a confidence, a swagger, whatever you want to call it, that's above their years. They're playing like guys who are third and fourth-year players. They're a pleasure to play with—they're great players.

Q: Speaking of the third and fourth year players, describe, in your words, the play of Chris Marinelli and Chase Beeler.

A: Chase is, as you can guess, a very cerebral player. At center, you have to be. You have to be making the right call, making the right decision, putting everyone in the right spot. Chris is constantly improving, constantly working on little things to improve his game, and as a result, he is continually getting better and better as the years go by. Both are a pleasure to play with.

Q: You have a bunch of creative formations this year, sometimes bringing in seven offensive linemen. How has that been, to play in untraditional formations? What do you think the effect is on opposing defenses?

A: It's a lot of fun. To come out with seven offensive linemen and just run the ball, that's what I like to do as a player: come out and run the ball, run power, run off-tackle, those kind of plays. Getting the chance to do that with the creative formations, with the run game we have going, it's a lot of fun.

Q: Before the Oregon game, Coach Harbaugh was saying that the offense was going to have to score on every possession. Does that fire you up? Does that seem unrealistic? What's the feeling for you when you hear something like that?

A: Coach Shaw says it basically every time we have a meeting. Our goal is to score every time we have the ball, whether it's grinding it out and getting a field goal or a two-minute situation, we expect to score every time we get the ball. Obviously, because of the Oregon offense, that might have been emphasized a bit more, but overall, we look to score every time we get the ball.

Q: Let's say you're given a minute to recruit a player to come play on the Stanford offensive line. What would you say to them? What would be your pitch?

A: (Excited.) There is no better time to be a Stanford Cardinal. I can say that with 100 percent confidence. When I came in, the program was in a transition. We had gone 5-6, then we went 1-11. The drive and the heart that this team has to come from a situation like that to where we are now, from out of that hole, says a lot. And we're not done yet, we still have three games to play. The personality of this team, the character of this team, it says a lot. Things are all looking up, so there's no better time to be a Stanford Cardinal.

Q: Nice. Stanford is undefeated at home this year. What do you attribute that to?

A: Getting in a rhythm. We're comfortable playing at home. We get great fan support. There's a comfort level that comes with playing at home that we've become accustomed to, and we have an attitude about protecting our house, and protecting who we are and where we've come from, that's something we take a lot of pride in.

Q: Speaking of student support, it seems to have come up a bit. Have there been any particular instances that have stood out to you? Do you see a marked difference?

A: Absolutely. My true freshman year, it was not a very fun time to be on the team. We won one game, and that was at the University of Washington. We were only competitive in a couple of games. It wasn't very fun to be a fan, it wasn't very fun to be player. That transition started in the next year. We were competitive in more games, we won more games, we beat USC, we beat Cal. Carrying into the next year, we were competitive in basically every game, and now we're at the point where we expect to win every game. Going off of that and building off of that is a big part of our success.

Q: Off the field, you're a classics major. What are your interests academically within classics? What do you enjoy studying?

A: It plays into the kid nature of who I am. I love stories, and a lot of classics is great stories, and it's a recognition that people have been thinking and doing a lot of the same things for thousands of years, and I find that very interesting.

Q: After your collegiate career is done, are you thinking professionally, at this point?

A: Absolutely. It's something that's a goal of mine, but at the same time, I'm realistic. I realize that a big part of coming to Stanford is that you don't necessarily rely on football. Of course, I'd love to be paid to play a game, but there is more that I want to do with my life than play football.

Q: And what would that be? What are your plans once your football career is done, whenever that may be?

A: Honestly, I don't really have an answer to the question, "Where do you think you'll be in ten years?" I do think I want to go to law school. My dad and a lot of my family are lawyers, and it's something that plays to my strengths. I enjoy writing and critical reading.

Q: Away from academics, what are you doing for fun?

A: I'm a big outdoors guy. I like hiking. I probably go up to Windy Hill once or twice a month. I love fishing, and stuff that every other 22 year old kid like—video games, movies, pretty standard things.

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