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Clark Phillips III can’t wait for matchup with Jordan Addison, No. 7 USC’s offense

Trojan receiver is the reigning Biletnikoff Award winner — emblematic of the nation’s best receiver.

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Utah Utes cornerback Clark Phillips III glides into the end zone after intercepting a pass against Oregon State .

Utah Utes cornerback Clark Phillips III glides into the end zone after intercepting a pass against Oregon State at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022. Phillips and the rest of the Utah defense will have its hands full when No. 7 USC pays Salt Lake City a visit Saturday night.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

When No. 20 Utah hosts No. 7 USC, it marks one of the most-anticipated Pac-12 games of the season, featuring the Utes, the defending conference champions, and the Trojans, who are also vying for this year’s title.

And inside this game, there’s an intriguing matchup between USC receiver Jordan Addison and Utah cornerback Clark Phillips III.

“I feel like they’ve got a myriad of weapons and people that can really hurt us as a defense. It’s a challenge that you anticipate when you call yourself a great defense. I’m excited to see them in Rice-Eccles.” — Utah defensive back Clark Phillips IIII

Addison is the reigning Biletnikoff Award winner — emblematic of the nation’s best receiver. He received the award last year while at Pittsburgh, where he caught 100 passes for 1,593 yards and 17 touchdowns, before transferring to USC.

This season for the Trojans, Addison has recorded 32 catches for 479 yards and six touchdowns. 

Phillips, meanwhile, loves studying film and breaking down the tendencies of wide receivers. Phillips has recorded pick-sixes in two straight games and is tied for the FBS lead with four interceptions in 2022. And he’s looking forward to this showdown. 

Of course, Phillips knows that the Trojans have much more firepower than just Addison. 

“Good quarterback and some great receivers. I feel like they’ve got a myriad of weapons and people that can really hurt us as a defense,” he said. “It’s a challenge that you anticipate when you call yourself a great defense. I’m excited to see them in Rice-Eccles.”

USC boasts quarterback Caleb Williams, running backs Travis Dye and Austin Jones, and receivers Mario Williams, Brenden Rice and Tahj Washington.

Dye, an Oregon transfer, has rushed 90 times for 571 yards and six touchdowns and has 114 receiving yards. Jones has rushed for 213 yards. Mario Williams has 22 receptions for 348 yards, Rice has 15 catches for 151 yards, and Washington has hauled in 13 passes for 179 yards. 

No wonder the press box at Rice-Eccles Stadium will welcome numerous NFL scouts, what with so many potential draft picks on the field.

“They’re playmakers. They make plays on the ball,” Phillips said of USC’s offensive weapons. “They’re (yard-after-catch) guys. They make yards after catch. That’s something that they specialize in. It’s fun to watch that and see what we can do defensively to stop that.”

Phillips said the defense has plenty to worry about.

“When it’s a team like this, and they’ve got a lot of guys, it makes things a little bit more difficult,” Phillips said. “But I trust the coaches to put us in good positions. I’m just going to do my one-eleventh. I’m going to go out there and no matter who they put me on — whether it’s Caleb Williams, Jordan Addison or Travis Dye, I’m gonna be on ’em.”

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham knows that the Trojans offense poses “a big challenge” for his defense.

“With that comes a great opportunity. They’ve got an outstanding group of receivers. They’re talented. They’re dangerous,” he said. “They spread the ball around so you can’t focus on just one guy. You’ve got to be able to cover the whole batch of them. That will be a great challenge for our secondary as well as a big challenge for our front to speed up the quarterback so he doesn’t have all day to throw.”

Still, USC’s passing game hasn’t looked as good as it did earlier in the season. It has sputtered at times the last few weeks. Clearly, opponents are adjusting to Addison and the rest of the offense. 

AP22275231269375.jpg

Southern California wide receiver Jordan Addison tries to fend off an Arizona State defensive back during game Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022, in Los Angeles. The Trojan receiver is the reigning Biletnikoff Award winner — emblematic of the nation’s best receiver.

Mark J. Terrill, Associated Press

“What I notice is the leverages they play against me,” Addison told reporters this week. “Most of the time they play a lot more outside leverage to keep me from getting outside. That’s one of the big things I’ve been noticing, it’s been a little bit harder to get outside. But just the receiver that I am, I have to make it work.”

Because USC is so deep and talented, opposing defenses usually can’t double-team Addison and risk being burned by other receivers. 

“At times, he’s seen a little extra attention, but it’s not like he’s being double-covered every single play,” USC coach Lincoln Riley said about Addison. “He’s obviously had a good first half of the season, but I think he’s primed really well for us here.”

Certainly, Addison is looking forward to going head-to-head against Phillips.

“He’s a solid corner, he’s got great feet, good speed and challenges like this, this is what I look up to and this is where I rise the most,” he said. 

Because Phillips hails from La Habra, California, this game is special for him. 

“Most definitely,” he said. “That was my first-ever game as a freshman (in 2020). I grew up in the hometown of USC and UCLA. So when you play against these guys, it’s definitely something a little bit more.”

While Phillips vs. Addison is intriguing, Phillips knows that this is not about individuals but about two nationally ranked teams that are vying for a Pac-12 championship. 

“Man, I’m excited,” he said. “We’ve got a big matchup at our house against some great guys, a great team.”


Utes on the air

No. 7 USC (6-0, 4-0)

at No. 20 Utah (4-2, 2-1)

Saturday, 6 p.m. MDT

Rice-Eccles Stadium

TV: Fox

Radio: ESPN 700