True Freshman DE Jaelan Phillips Talks First UCLA Spring Practice

Apr. 28 -- UCLA true freshman defensive end Jaelan Phillips spoke to reporters about his first spring ball, the adjustment to the college game, depth along the defensive line and cutting off his hair...

On his team for the spring game

Oh yeah, we have a squad. It’s going to be a fun game. We definitely have a lot of talent. I like playing with a couple of people on the defense – like me and Rick (Wade) on the edges will be fun; Matt Dickerson on the inside, having Ainuu (Taua) out there. So it’s going to be really fun.

On whether spring practice has been what he thought it would be

It’s been everything I thought it would be, and more than that. I’ve just been getting a lot more comfortable with everything. I’m able to play faster, I’m able to play more comfortable with the defense. Picking up the scheme pretty easily, so it’s just been really fun. 

On how he’s adjusted to the speed of the game

Well, honestly, I think playing in the Army game helped me a lot in terms of adjusting to the speed. Because I’m playing against the top players in the country, there’s already a difference in the speed from high school, just regular competition. So I think coming here is definitely a change from high school – it’s hard on the body – but I’ve adjusted I think. Just going out there and working hard every day. 

On the benefit of enrolling in winter quarter

Oh, it helped me tremendously. I would honestly recommend it to everybody. It’s just nice to get in here – I couldn’t imagine being in high school at this point. Being able to start spring ball – I know Austin (Burton) came in just for spring ball – but for me and Darnay and Jimmy, coming in in January, we were just able to get acclimated to everything, really just fit into campus life, be able to get our grades settled first; we were able to do a bunch of things. Work out, especially, with the team. And I gained 25 pounds or so during the winter quarter. So that’s definitely something that I think really helped me out. 

On what weight he’s at now

About 265.

On whether 265 pounds is his ideal weight

I’m just maintaining at this point, yeah. Whatever the coaches tell me to do. I feel comfortable at this weight. Feel faster, feel strong. So I’m definitely just going to keep trying to get stronger. But weight-wise, I’ll probably maintain this. 

On whether he could fill some of Takk McKinley’s role this season

I mean obviously Takk is incredible, that’s why he’s a first-round draft pick. I honestly just want to be able to do all I can do to contribute to the team. I don’t think I’m really trying to step into (Takk’s) role necessarily, I’m just going to play to the best of my ability and do what I can do – fit into this scheme, fit into what we’re doing as a defense. So I’m not really concerned with stepping into that role necessarily, I’m just going to do the best I can do. 

On the talent that surrounds him on this D-Line

Well first of all, talking about the depth, I think we really do have a really deep D-Line. And we have 2s and 3s who are going to, for sure, see the field. So I don’t think you see that at a lot of places. But being able to compete every single day with top talent, it definitely keeps you on your A-game and makes you have to get better every single day. So I think definitely, the depth we have and the talent that we have is really great and makes me a lot better.

On why he cut his hair

A couple things. I told myself I was never going to cut it, because of the Samson effect. But it was just too long, it was too long to keep up with. Waking up at 4:45 in the morning every day, I can’t do my hair, I have to go straight to class and everything – I can’t be looking back in class. So I had to cut it down a little bit. But it’s growing back, so we’ll see. Maybe we’ll see the crop coming out of the helmet soon enough. 

On if he lost some of his edge after cutting his hair

No, didn’t lose any power thankfully. 

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