The tailgating. The bands. The rivalries. The Bowls.
Hookem.com brings you through the dog days of summer with a player-by-player look at the Texas roster.
It all feels so far away right now. But the truth is football season is just around the corner.
Before long, teams will begin two-a-days in shorts. Then full pads. And shortly after that, the lights at Royal-Memorial Stadium flicker on one by one.
The excitement for Texas football in 2012 already is starting to build. Hookem.com is hoping to add fuel to the fire. Leading up to the season we’ll spotlight 30 of the most important players on the Texas roster.
Player: Adrian Phillips
What he’s done:
Mr. Backup. That should have been Adrian Phillips’ nickname. It sounds like a bad thing, but really it’s a compliment.
Hookem.com ranked Phillips the No. 18 recruit in Texas and the No. 9 athlete in the nation in the class of 2010, and during his first two years on campus, Phillips has been the Jack-of-all-trades in the secondary. When Texas has needed a cornerback, Phillips would step in at cornerback. Mack Brown loves to point out the great game he played against Nebraska in 2010.
When the Longhorns have needed a safety, he’s stepped in and played safety. In fact, he was the backup to both Blake Gideon and Kenny Vaccaro last season.
If Adrian Phillips can fully rehab from his ankle surgery he could play a vital role in the defensive backfield as a Jack-of-all-trades player.
He’s also been the nickelback.
No matter the position in the secondary, Phillips has been the backup.
“I don't think they realized how smart he was until he got in there and they started moving him around,” a source told Hookem.com during the spring. “If (Quandre) Diggs gets hurt, you put him at corner. If Vaccaro gets hurt, you put him at safety and in the nickel. He can stick at any position.”
You could say it’s because he hasn’t been good enough to be a starter, but that’s not the case. He was ready to start last year, but the Longhorns moved him from cornerback to safety due to a lack of depth. At safety he was stuck behind four-year starter Blake Gideon and Vaccaro, an All-American candidate this year.
So he filled in … everywhere.
He played in every game except against Kansas (shoulder injury) in 2011, compiling 43 tackles and two interceptions. He also broke up five passes and caused three fumbles.
His best game was against UCLA. If you remember, that was the first game where the secondary really stood out as it made three first-quarter interceptions. Phillips made one of those, and he also recorded eight tackles and forced a fumble.
Step 1 is get healthy.
It was early January when Phillips let the world know via Twitter that he was slated to have shoulder surgery and would be out four-to-six months.
Evans missed time because of track, and Thompson showed he wasn’t ready to be a starter at safety, yet.
That makes Phillips’ recovery extremely important. It’s not just that he’s the Longhorns’ best option to start at free safety, it’s that he’s a good option to start at free safety.
He’s the final piece to a secondary that could be special.
First of all, he’s shown that he’s a smart player, so missing the time shouldn’t hinder his intellectual football growth. While he’ll need some time to get his strength back, Phillips is stronger than he was as a freshman, when he showed he wasn’t afraid to get physical against the run and he had the ability and speed to cover wide receivers when opponents pass.
With solid units on the defensive line and linebacker returning, Phillips shouldn’t have much trouble stepping up against the run and making tackles.
With a strong pass rush expected, there should be plenty of interception opportunities, too.
That’s where Phillips will have to get more opportunistic. He has two interceptions in 24 games so far.
It’s tough to make grand prediction when guys miss four-to-six months of the offseason due to injury.
But all indications are Phillips will be good to go when the Longhorns return to practice in the summer/fall.
He could have a big year.
It will be his first year as a full-time starter.
Opponents aren’t going to want to throw in Vaccaro’s direction much, so Phillips should get plenty of opportunities to make plays.
If he returns to the field in the same physical condition he was in during the 2011 season, he could end up having an All-Conference type season where he makes 80 tackles, picks off five passes and perhaps even comes up with a couple of sacks.
- David Ash