“Being out there with him, he's grown up. He's finally being a student of the game and getting his mentality up, and just understanding.”
Oklahoma's defensive line was considered among the weakest units on the entire team before the 2013 season. Five senior defensive linemen graduated off the 2012 team, leaving little experience or depth.
But Phillips made dramatic improvement throughout the offseason, finally playing to his enormous potential under first-year defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery.
Through the Sooners' first four games, Phillips provided a dominant force inside the defensive line, getting good pressure on opposing quarterbacks and helping defend the run. He recorded seven tackles — two for loss — and 1.5 sacks in his four starts.
The Oklahoma defense played well against TCU without Phillips, but Texas gashed the Sooners, rushing for 255 yards as a team on 60 attempts.
“It's gonna have a big impact on us guys on the D-line because he made such a big impact,” sophomore defensive end Charles Tapper said of Phillips' injury. “He dominated the middle and was like a big brother to the whole D-line. Losing him is mentally hard as much as it is physical.”