On the field, the Vols limped through a 55-23 loss to No. 7 Auburn and surrendered 444 yards to the Tigers' relentless rushing attack.
In the stands, the Volunteer State's top-ranked recruit in the 2015 class flashed an ear-to-ear grin and was again impressed by his latest visit to Rocky Top.
"I loved it a lot because the last time I came here I felt the same way as I do now," said the Scout four-star defensive end. "The fans, I know it was a bad loss, but I still like the environment at Tennessee and I just love the coaching staff, the players, really everything. It's just great every time I get out here."
The nation's No. 22 defensive end spoke like a committed player when talking about his visit, using the words "we" and "we're" interchangeably with "Tennessee" and "Vols."
"We're going to be in the mix with everything basically," Phillips told InsideTennessee. "The coaches are telling everyone that Tennessee will be competing for a national championship with all these great recruits we're getting. That recruiting class is going to help a lot. I think everyone knew we were going to be down this year, but recruits, that's what we're here for."
While Phillips is high on the Vols, he's not close to making a decision any time soon.
"I like a lot of schools. Right now, I'm just pretty much trying to take a visit every weekend and then after the season I'm going to sit down and try to narrow it down to a few schools I'm focused on," Phillips said. "By next year, I'll have an understanding of which schools I'm serious about."
"I'm still real high on Tennessee," Phillips told IT. "But Tennessee and Vandy, their coaching staff is very similar. There's a great education at Vandy, too. Education and a tight, cool coaching staff are real important to me."
Tennessee linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen is serving as Phillips' primary recruiter. The 6-foot-4, 245-pounder described his relationship with Thigpen as "awesome."
"You can really tell he likes me a lot," Phillips said of Thigpen. "He's not just giving me (nonsense) about stuff. He's being real about everything and I like that a lot. He's the kind of guy who you can talk to about anything. We have a real, real solid relationship."
Phillips also spoke with Tennessee defensive line coach Steve Stripling after the game Saturday.
"(Stripling) told me he needs me a lot," Phillips recalls.
Stripling isn't exaggerating. Tennessee graduates every starter along its defensive line.
For Phillips, the opportunity to play early is a big plus.
"That's big. I mean, everyone wants to play early," Phillips told IT. "But you still have to work to play early anywhere you go. But, it's big to know I can work hard and could be able to help out right away."
Currently, Phillips isn't helping out his Hillsboro high Burros, which downed Beech (Tenn.) High School 31-26 in a first round TSSAA Class 5A playoff game.
Phillips had surgery to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder roughly a month ago. He says recovery is going smoothly.
"Coach (Stripling) asked about my shoulder a lot," Phillips said. "I told him he had nothing to worry about."