BRENTWOOD, Tenn. — Jacob Phillips is surrounded by orange.
From the rabid Tennessee fan base to former teammates competing for the Orange & White to being less than 3 hours from campus in Knoxville, the Volunteer State defender can’t hardly get away from it.
The Big Orange has some help in its recruitment of the sophomore linebacker target as Vols running back Jalen Hurd and Tennessee signee Riley Lovingood both played for the same Beech (Tenn.) High School where Phillips competes.
“I know that’s a really nice program,” Phillips told InsideTennessee. “I know they’ve never said anything bad about it. They’re always talking about the good and how it’s on the rise and a good recruiting class coming in for the 2015 class. I see nothing but the best for them.”
Hurd was just 101 yards away from eclipsing the 1,000-yard mark his first season at Rocky Top. The former top-rated prospect in the Volunteer State is a well-known talent around Beech High. Those Vols fans say in Phillips’ ear.
“They love it,” Phillips said of the 2012 TSSAA Class AAA Mr. Football Back of the Year. “All I hear is every day when I walk down the hallway is ‘Go Vols!’ and them trying to throw me up and make me go there. I mean it will be a big decision for me. I have nothing negative to say about Tennessee right now.”
Other offers aside from Tennessee include opportunities at Southeastern Conference schools Kentucky, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt. He saw the Commodores fall in their 2014 opener, losing to Temple. He visited Oxford the weekend the Rebels took down Alabama. During the trip to Lexington, Commonwealth Stadium was under renovations and the Wildcats defeated Ohio.
The Hendersonville resident doesn’t get the feeling any other programs are close to pulling the trigger on an offer. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t hope more arrive.
“I try to get as many as I can,” said Phillips, who grew up watching Ohio State and would love a Buckeyes offer.
Phillips’ lead recruiter with Tennessee is linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen.
“Oh, I like him (Thigpen),” Phillips said. “I like how real he is. He’ll tell you the truth about anything you want to know. Seems like a fun guy, seems like a good leader. So, that’s a plus.”
The Class of 2017 talent called his upcoming junior year his “biggest season of my life.”
“This summer I want to prepare to be more flexible, be able to bend more in my hips, be able to run faster,” Phillips said. “My sophomore year I was kind of new to playing linebacker. Hopefully this year I’ll be more experienced and do more for my team and just try as hard as I can.”
The 6-foot-3, 223-pounder had his hand on the ground his first season with the Buccaneers. The transition to the second level didn’t come until Summer 2014.
“My freshman year I played defensive end,” said Phillips, who wears No. 1. “Last year was one of my first years of playing linebacker. I haven’t really developed my identity but hopefully one of the smartest linebackers, not just hit everything, find the right hole to go through.”
Former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis is a hard-hitter that Phillips looks up to.
“I like his energy and what he brings to the team. He’s a great leader and a Christian. I like that about him.”