That said, a defined list of leaders is still a long ways away.
The 6-foot-4, 245-pounder plans to start pinpointing leaders this summer after he takes a hosts of unofficial visits and camp stops this spring.
Phillips, who dropped by Alabama last weekend and called the experience "just awesome," hopes to make the short trip to Knoxville in the next few weeks for one of the Vols' junior day camps.
"I've been up to UT a lot, but I enjoy it every time. It's always great," Phillips said. "So why not make another trip?"
The nation's No. 19 defensive end prospects calls his relationship with Tennessee linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen a "big factor" as to why he's high on the Vols.
"I really just have a great relationship with all the coaches," Phillips told IT. "Especially coach (Thigpen). He's one of the best recruiters I've ever come across for sure. He's a great guy."
But Thigpen and the rest of Tennessee's staff aren't the only ones selling the Vols to Phillips.
The Volunteer State product said everyone – from fellow high school students to neighbors and strangers – tells him how he needs to continue the Vols' recent trend of landing the state's top targets.
"Playing it-state, yeah, it'd be cool and all, but it's not really a factor to me," Phillips said. "But, you know, Tennessee is getting all the talent from the state and it's impressive, that's for sure."
Other than wanting to develop a clear list of leaders this spring, Phillips also is focused on continuing rehab on his shoulder.
Phillips had surgery to repair a torn labrum last fall. He says recovery is going smoothly and claims to be "70 percent" healthy at the moment.
"I have a lot to work on. I'm feeling good, but I'm always working. You know, have always got to keep working," Phillips told IT. "I need to get stronger and get my conditioning up. I felt pretty explosive coming out. My motion is really good. I just have to get it stronger."