Phillips Embraces Role as Leader of Hoosier Defense
Aug. 9, 2008
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - The prognosticators have all agreed - it's the biggest question mark for the Indiana football team this fall. With four-year starters and current NFLers Tracy Porter and Leslie Majors departed due to graduation, Indiana will have two new starters at cornerback in 2008.
But according to the leader of the Hoosier secondary, IU has a chance to be even better defending the pass this season.
"I really think we're going to be better this year," senior cornerback Christopher Phillips said. "All of our secondary guys have a nose for the ball so everybody's flying around for it. I think the chemistry is really good between everybody."
The senior is the lone returning player at cornerback who has starting experience heading into 2008, having started 12 games in his career. And Phillips has made plenty of big plays as well. Two of his career interceptions have been returned for touchdowns, including a pivotal 66-yard TD against Ball State last year. Add to that his acrobatic interception to snuff out a Purdue drive in the Old Oaken Bucket Game.
But the bigger question mark has been on the other side, where there is a battle between several players with limited experience who have combined for just seven career games in a Hoosier uniform. Still, Phillips sees the talent that the unit has, and thinks that the speed that the youngsters possess will be enough to overcome the lack of experience.
"The speed is good, especially with the younger guys - mostly DJ [Donnell Jones] and Rich [Richard Council] - but everybody's fast, blazing," Phillips said. "The linebackers also, the D-line, everybody on defense is pretty fast."
Despite his loquaciousness off the field, Phillips has never really played the role of the vocal leader on the field. But with a young and talented secondary looking up to him as the elder statesman, he has emerged as a strong leader on what could be the best defense Bloomington has seen in several years.
"I figured I'd step it up this year and become a vocal leader," Phillips said. "Last year I felt like I was a behind-the-scenes leader. But now with the younger guys I feel like I need to get the whole team going and make sure there's enthusiasm and excitement on the field when practice is going, because I have to pick them up when they get down."
Time and time again, the line about Indiana in the popular publications is the same - a great offense that can score a lot of points, but a defense that is questionable. The Hoosiers and their vocal leader, though, are looking forward to slamming the door shut on that theory.
"I really think we'll surprise a lot of people," he said. "We're going to try to get a couple shutouts. I feel like we're going to come with intensity every game and let them put the weight on our shoulders so we can control a couple games and score a couple more touchdowns this year."
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