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Monday, April 29, 2013
Schools inquiring about 2016 Texas DB

By William Wilkerson

There is a lot a young defensive back can learn through repetitions against an older sibling or friend. But it's just not going to have the same effect as, say, going up against an NFL wide receiver.

The talent gap was extreme, but Bailey Phillips already was well versed in going up against older wide receivers. He wasn't going to shy away from Pittsburgh Steelers rookie Emmanuel Sanders during a workout back in 2010, the summer before Sanders left for training camp.

Bailey Phillips
Class of 2016 defensive back Bailey Phillips will visit Texas A&M and UCLA soon.
Phillips, now a freshman at West Mesquite (Texas) High School, was in seventh grade.

“He did pretty good,” Phillips said nonchalantly. “I tried to stay off of him since he was an NFL receiver and was much faster than me. He did a post, and I broke under and was right there, even though he made the catch.”

See, there was a lesson learned even in the way Phillips played a much-faster Sanders: Play off him.

It's that type of knowledge acquired at such a young age that has college programs already inquiring about Phillips. That includes Texas, which sent one of its coaches to West Mesquite on April 18 to see what all the talk about a must-see freshman cornerback was about.

“We had a little 7-on-7, and I was playing pretty good,” Phillips said. “It wasn't anything special. I was just playing like I normally do. But I guess the coach saw something that he liked in me, and he spoke with my coach and got my number.”

The coach, who Phillips could only describe, appeared to be recruiting coordinator Bruce Chambers. The coach spoke with West Mesquite coach Kyle Ward after the workout, expressing his interest in Phillips.

“I was moving all around, making plays,” Phillips said. “I think there was an out, and the running back caught it at the 1(-yard line) and I stood him up. I had a couple of pull downs. I had a couple of breakups and made it where the receivers had to get off their routes and go out of bounds to catch the ball.”

The Wranglers have been blessed with exceptional talent in their secondary over the past few seasons, which was a primary reason Phillips started for the junior varsity team in 2012.

West Mesquite just didn't have anywhere to put him, with ESPN 300 safety Kameron Miles (a 2013 Texas A&M signee), ESPN 150 safety Dylan Sumner-Gardner (a 2014 Texas A&M commit) and three-star 2013 Arizona State signee Will Earley in the fold.

Phillips has all but locked up one of the starting cornerback positions on varsity this spring. It's time for him to shine under those Friday night lights.

“Well I like to portray myself as the next Tyrann Mathieu without the off-the-field issues,” Phillips said. “I think they are mostly surprised at how high my skill level is compared to other freshmen. I try to be the next Kameron Miles at my school.”

Phillips has raised the standard for just how a freshman should train in order to accelerate his learning curve. He works out every day during the week, including two or three times specifically on his DB skills. Most of those drills come in workout sessions with a local defensive backs coach.

“Going to workouts and just trying to get all the work I can, so I can be the best,” Phillips said. “That’s what I’m about.”

Phillips isn't the biggest corner at 5-foot-9 and 157 pounds. But judge the size of his heart or muscles by the length of a measuring stick, and you'll likely be put on your backside.

He benched 245 pounds in an early-morning workout on April 24 and dead-lifted 300 pounds, too.

“I just play through them,” Phillips said of bigger receivers. “I feel like if they aren't a brick wall, then they can be pushed around. You have to make the receivers scared of you.”

Those are the types of defensive backs fiery Texas secondary coach Duane Akina likes to have at his disposal. Lucky for he and the Longhorns, Phillips is well aware of Akina's track record of putting DBs in the league.

“I like them after seeing Vince Young and then seeing the combine and watching one of their receivers (Marquise Goodwin) run a 4.3,” Phillips said. “I was like, 'Man they have some players down there.' I like how their defense is. If you notice they have been putting DBs in the NFL every year. They recruit really good DBs.”

No offers have been extended, by Texas or anyone else, but it's only a matter of time before they start flooding in. Should the Longhorns decide to pursue Phillips further, they'll have quite the battle on their hands.

Phillips is visiting Texas A&M on June 10 and UCLA on June 12 for unofficial visits. He'll also take trips to Arizona State, Baylor and Nebraska.