Phillips III, Utah Defense Working Hard To Be Better

Aug 17, 2022, 10:15 AM
Clark Phillips - Utah Utes...
Utah Utes cornerback Clark Phillips III. (Photo courtesy of Utah Athletics)
(Photo courtesy of Utah Athletics)

SALT LAKE CITY- Most know Utah as a football team that takes pride in stifling defense year-in and year-out. Recently, the Utes offense has taken a tremendous step forward after years of being “ok” at best. For a guy as competitive and football-savvy as Clark Phillips III, the offense’s emergence is just a challenge to crank up the defense another notch.


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Getting Better

Defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley talked a lot after practice on Tuesday about a focus on fundamentals ahead of the Utes’ season opener at Florida. One of those fundamentals Scalley, Phillips III and the defense are working on honing is on-field communication.

“I love the effort, I love the energy,” Scalley said of his defensive unit. “You can tell, some situational football stuff we just aren’t playing intelligent football enough. In the red zone, communication is a big deal as well- we just aren’t good enough communicators. These last two practices- man, a ton of improvement. Particularly from some down-the-line guys that struggled in the scrimmage.”

Phillips III knows as a vet in the Utah defense that part of the onus falls on him to make sure everyone is ready to go and knows what they need to do.

“You want to make sure that’s a focal point when you’re down in a stadium that’s as loud as it’s going to be,” Phillips III said. “You want to make sure guys are going to be communicating as loud as they can, and just relaying signals and things like that when it’s going to be the loudest in the red zone.”

When Injuries Become A Positive

Last season Phillips III was the last guy standing in the defensive back group who started the season. While injuries are never fun, especially ones that happen to a single position group, the silver lining is lots of guys get reps and real game experience they wouldn’t have otherwise. Utah’s cornerbacks, according to Phillips III are seeing that bump of depth and experience now that everyone is back for 2022.

“With everybody healthy, with everybody back and pushing each other- competing every single day, I think we have one of the top secondaries,” Phillips III said. “It’s showing every day. We’re getting better. We haven’t arrived yet, but it’s just a beautiful thing when everybody has got experience, and everybody is coaching each other up.”

Always Striving For More

From the jump, Phillips III has been an extra bright spot in Utah’s really good defense, but he’s never been the type of player to rest on his God-given ability. Phillips III is always looking for the next line to push, or goal to accomplish, and that drive is what makes him one of the best defensive backs in the country.

Talk swirled over the summer about how Phillips III could potentially be a first-round caliber player for next year’s NFL Draft. Instead of focusing on that however, Phillips III found and worked on deficiencies in his game to be better prepared this season for the Utes.

“Biggest thing for me was tackling,” Phillips III said. “Tackling and I just want to be better all-around in man coverage, zone coverage. I just want to refine all of the parts I feel like are kind of shoddy in my game.”

Phillips III’s desire to be the best and continually work on his game, regardless of how big or small, is one of the things his position coach, Sharrieff Shah loves most about his star player.

“Clark continues to just master the small things, that’s what I love about him,” Shah said. “Clark, when he first got here, we met so much it was ridiculous. Because of the Covid year we had so many more opportunities to visit on Zoom and talk. He would be up here just as much as I would be up here. He had an insatiable appetite from the beginning.”

Another thing Phillips III has been working on relentlessly? His return game on special teams. After Britain Covey declared for the NFL last winter, the Utes have been looking for a new specialist to take his place. Phillips III sees it as one more opportunity to be the best and help his team win.

“It’s something I really wanted to work on my first year,” Phillips III said. “The second year as well, and watching a guy like Covey do it with ease was something special for me. If I can get that job, I’d be super happy.”


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Phillips III, Utah Defense Working Hard To Be Better