Utah football: Can true freshman cornerback Clark Phillips III live up to his hype?
Clark Phillips III signed with Utah as the highest-rated recruit in program history. We sat down with Ute insider Bryan Brown to break down his chances to live up to the hype.
SALT LAKE CITY — For those who were able to catch a glimpse this spring, prized Utah recruit Clark Phillips III has a good chance of living up to his hype.
Phillips signed with the Utes as highest-rated prospect ever brought into the program, with Utah coach Kyle Whittingham stating early on during Utah spring practices, “We were so excited because he’s a heck of a player. He’s got a lot of ability, he was a very highly recruited kid out of high school and what we’ve seen so far has been very good.”
Yes, Phillips joined the Utes for spring semester following his early graduation from La Habra High in Southern California. Doing so gave him a head start in his bid to make an impact as a true freshman at a position where the Utes are looking for contributors following the departure of Jaylon Johnson, among others.
Phillips appears primed to fit the bill based on comments of several observers, including Ute insider Bryan Brown, who took time to break down the four-star prospect’s chances to compete. Brown is a contributor to utezone.com and a producer for 1280theZone radio network. Brown also played collegiately for Snow College and has held coaching positions at both Cyprus and Olympus high schools.
What are your overall impressions of Clark Phillips III?
“He’s the highest-rated recruit in Utah history, and for good reason. I loved what I saw on film, sure, but the bigger reason I’m so high on him is because of what I saw from him during a week of practices this spring where he just went after everybody and really showed that he very well could live up to his hype.
“If there was an elite player to go up against, he didn’t hesitate. He wanted the toughest matchups every single time. There were times he’d get beat, but he’d keep coming and working to establish the player he is and how he’s going to play. I hate the phrase, ‘He’s a dog,’ but that’s really the best way to describe him. He’s always fighting until the end and never backs down. That’s the number one thing I love about him.”
What specific aspects of Phillips’ play impress you?
“He’s an incredibly twitchy athlete, and I think that’s correlates to his already great technique, which works well with his body-type that is already muscular and developed. Clark is thick and has incredible recovery speed and twitch. That’s a great combination, and yeah, his recovery speed is really impressive.
“He needs to work on his technique and his footwork, like any incoming player, but his natural abilities to play up close in press (coverage) is apparent, along with his recovery speed.”
What are his chances to contribute immediately as a true freshman?
“I think absolutely he’s a starter this coming year. I’m always very hesitant to say something like that about an incoming player, but based on what I’ve seen already, I’d be surprised if he didn’t become a starter by the end of this coming year.
“With Utah being so thin on experience at corner, along with just how aggressive and flat-out good Clark already has shown, I think he’s someone who starts this year.” — Bryan Brown, on Clark Phillips III
“With Utah being so thin on experience at corner, along with just how aggressive and flat-out good Clark already has shown, I think he’s someone who starts this year. He pops out during spring practices, among a team with some very good and experienced college players. His attitude and aggressiveness are contagious, and is something I see this defense really rallying around, even though he’s a true freshman.”
What former Utah player does he remind you of?
“A throwback answer would be Clarence Lawson — an undersized guy who played in the 1990s. For a more recent comparison, I’d go with Dominique Hatfield. He’s like a supersized version of Dominique. He’s as quick as Dominique, but he’s thicker, and yeah, based on what I’ve seen, I believe he’s going to be a very, very good player for Utah, and will likely contribute a lot as a true freshman.”