NORMAN — On Louisiana Tech’s fifth offensive play during Saturday night’s 48-16 Oklahoma win, Jordan Phillips showed why he was such a focus for the Sooners in the preseason.
Phillips stood up and with his right arm did a swim move that easily got him past Bulldogs’ center Joseph Brunson.
A couple steps later, OU’s big defensive tackle wrapped up running back Kenneth Dixon for a four-yard loss.
Phillips didn’t play a whole lot Saturday night — Oklahoma’s coaches want to make sure he’s healthy for Big 12 games that are going to determine the Sooners’ fate this season — but when he did, Phillips was every bit the handful for offensive linemen he was last season when healthy.
“It’s been way too long,” Phillips said. “It was nice to not have to play with any pain but just go out there and have fun.”
It had been nearly a year since Phillips played pain free.
His back gave him problems last year during camp, but he was able to get through the first four games.
He was fine for the Tulsa game Sept. 14. Two weeks later against Notre Dame, Phillips played but his back stiffened up to the point where he couldn’t continue.
Phillips’ season was over.
Saturday night, Phillips added just one more tackle but the Sooners’ defensive line controlled the action when the starters were in.
Oklahoma regularly subbed in an entire second wave of defensive linemen — defensive ends Charles Walker and Matt Dimon flanking tackle Matt Romar.
“We have a real good rotation,” Phillips said. “There’s no drop off with us. We can all play, and we’re all ready to go at all times.”
The Sooners went even deeper than six up front, with Jordan Wade and Torrea Peterson also seeing time.
“A lot of those guys are all starting to become really good players,” Sooners coach Bob Stoops said. “We wanted to limit their opportunity for injury also, so we wanted to play a lot of them. But a lot of them have shown us that they can play at a winning level.”
Romar was solid filling in for Phillips but keeping Phillips healthy is a priority for the Sooners.
While Jordan Wade filled in admirably last year when Phillips was hurt, the push Oklahoma was able to get up front was different with Phillips in the lineup.
Oklahoma coaches would prefer to be able to keep up the heavy rotation up front on the defensive line, especially with Phillips and Romar to keep Phillips fresh for when Big 12 play begins Sept. 20 at West Virginia.
“Last year, we really weren’t as established as we are this year,” Phillips said. “I don’t know for sure, but with everybody having a year under our belts, I bet you that makes the coaches feel a lot more comfortable putting us in.”
They’ll be especially comfortable if Phillips remains healthy and his reps can continue to increase.