When Jalyn Phillips learned he would be getting his first career start for Clemson in its top-10 matchup against Miami last week, the sophomore safety did his best in practice leading up to the game to ensure he was prepared to make the most of his opportunity.
Phillips did just that, recording five tackles, including half a tackle for loss, and a pass breakup in the top-ranked Tigers’ 42-17 victory over the then-No. 7 Hurricanes on Saturday night in Death Valley.
With Clemson deploying a 3-2-6 scheme on defense featuring an extra safety, and sophomore safety Joseph Charleston dealing with a minor ailment, Phillips was given the chance to take the field with the first-team defense.
“I first found out earlier in the week,” Phillips said on Monday of getting the starting nod. “There was a little tweak with Joseph. He had a little injury, and Coach let me know that I had the opportunity to start, just let me know to be consistent all week in practice, just show him that I’m ready, and I just took advantage of the opportunity. It was truly a blessing.”
Phillips, who entered this season with seven career tackles in 47 defensive snaps across 14 games, admitted he was a little bit nervous when he first ran out there Saturday night. But once the action got underway, Phillips settled in and was right in his element on the field.
“Every day, I’m doing something that I love,” he said. “So, at first, you have little bits of jitters and butterflies. But once you continue playing the game, it’s just all fun. You’re just doing, at the end of the day, something you love, so it became fun to me as soon as I got on there and I felt like myself again.”
A former four-star prospect according to ESPN coming out of Archer High School in Georgia, Phillips has the ability to play any position in the secondary and received reps at both safety spots in fall camp as well as the nickel and dime positions.
Phillips prides himself on his versatility and willingness to line up wherever the coaches want him to.
“I feel like I’m comfortable with whatever Coach needs me to do,” he said. “He could ask me to play dime this week or free safety this week, strong safety, and I’m just going to learn that game plan and do the best I can do. I feel like it’s good that they’ve got me moving around a little bit and just showing my versatility. So, I feel like that’s a blessing as well that Coach can trust me to play multiple positions. But I’m comfortable wherever they need me, really.”
After making the first start of his young college career, Phillips is getting ready to head back home this Saturday for Clemson’s matchup against Georgia Tech at Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta.
Phillips grew up about 30 minutes away from Atlanta as a native of Lawrenceville, Ga., and is excited to play against a few Yellow Jackets that he faced in high school and has a close relationship with.
“I know a couple guys on that team – Jamious Griffin, the running back, (wide receiver) Malachi Carter, came from Mountain View,” Phillips said. “I’m real cool with those guys, the quarterback (Jordan Yates). I’m real cool with those guys, and it’s at Atlanta, so it makes it very special. So, I’m glad that I get an opportunity to play in Atlanta for one of the first times. So, yeah, it’s definitely going to be a big opportunity.”
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