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2019 NFL draft: Introducing Kyle Phillips, Tennessee’s versatile defensive line prospect

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NCAA Football: Florida at Tennessee Bryan Lynn-USA TODAY Sports

Versatility is king in today’s NFL, which makes do-it-all prospects like Tennessee’s Kyle Phillips hot commodities on draft weekend.

A physical presence who can line up at multiple spots on defense, Phillips has a nonstop motor that makes him a frustrating assignment for ball-carriers and would-be blockers alike.

Phillips recently spoke exclusively with MCM about his East-West Shrine Game experience, what representing Tennessee meant to him, and why Volunteer fans should have plenty of faith in Jeremy Pruitt going forward.

JM: What was the experience like for you at the East-West Shrine Game?

KP: It was great. It was a great opportunity for me to go out there and compete with some of the top seniors in the country. I met with more than 20 NFL teams there. It was great to make those introductions and get an idea of how different teams think they would use me at the next level. Versatility was a word that came up often. I’m 270 pounds right now and some teams spoke to me about me playing at 285 while others like me where I’m at right now. Some teams even talked about me slimming down to 260 so I can play outside linebacker for them.

It was great to start gathering that knowledge of how teams see me. It was an all around wonderful experience. I was getting coached by NFL coaches. Our head coach on the east team was the defensive line coach for the Carolima Panthers. He spoke to me about how my game translates to the next level. That was a great experience in itself.

JM: That’s fantastic. It’s always interesting to hear how differently teams can view the same prospect. You said you’re at 270 pounds right now. How would you describe your skill set?

KP: I’m a high energetic guy. My motor is always running hot. I’m very athletic and I’m strong on contact. I play the game with a lot of physicality. I can play multiple positions. I can move inside to the 3-technique and rush the passer from there. I can rush from the 5-tehcnique or the 9-technique as well. I think my versatility is probably my biggest asset at the next level.

JM: Speaking of your versatility as a pass rusher, do you have a favorite move when rushing the passer?

KP: Yeah, I love the stab club. That’s my go to move. It has a lot to do with my body frame. I have really long arms, 34” to be exact and I’m around 6-foot-4. That’s a tough block for a linemen to make. I can use a variety of counter moves off of that. That’s one thing I’m definitely trying to perfect, especially moving forward.

JM: You mention the ability to utilize some counter moves with your long arms. Say the stab club doesn’t work, how do you counter?

KP: When I hit them with the stab, that makes the offensive linemen flash their hands. After I hit them with the stab, I can come back with the outside arm to get his hands off of me. I can rip through at that point. When you stick your arms out there, that forces the offensive linemen to be patient, especially if it’s a good offensive linemen. They don’t wanna be the first one to flash their hands. They wanna make you flash your hands first. When you give them that flash of your hands, it forces them to punch with their arms. If you can get them to do that, you have a good chance at being successful with that rep.

JM: I love how in-depth that was. Playing at Tennessee afforded you the opportunity to compete against some of the best players in all of college football. Did any offensive players on the opposition ever catch your eye?

KP: Yeah, there were definitely a couple. Being at Tennessee meant I got to play against the best of the best on a weekly basis. Every weekend presented a different challenge. They always say it’s the AFC, the NFC and the SEC. That’s one reason I went to Tennessee. I wanted to play at a big time program in the SEC. I played against some great offensive linemen. I played against Jonah Williams from Alabama this past season. He definitely caught my eye. He’s a very solid player and I believe he’s gonna be great at the next level.

JM: He’s a good one for sure. Is there an NFL quarterback that you’d love to sack?

KP: One NFL quarterback that I would love to sack is Tom Brady. I think he’s one of the hardest quarterbacks to get down because he gets the ball out so quick. If you can sack Tom Brady, that says a lot about you (laughs).

JM: You’re a local guy. Born in Nashville, went to high school in the area and had the opportunity to attend the University of Tennessee. What did representing the home team mean to you?

KP: It was such an honor. Being an in-state guy, I made a lot of connections and got to meet a lot of fans. It really was an honor. I can go home and a lot of people know me just because I went to Tennessee. Being around Knoxville, it’s a college town and everybody bleeds orange. You can go anywhere and they treat you like a celebrity (laughs). Especially when you’re on the football team. It’s crazy. The last couple of years didn’t go as I hoped they would but being a Tennessee Volunteer will always be remarkable. I’ll always have love for the people in Tennessee.

JM: The program is still going through a lot of changes as they try to make a return to the top. With Jeremy Pruitt now being the guy in charge, what do you think is next for him and how can they get this thing going again?

KP: I definitely think coach Pruitt is moving things in the right direction. He has a great coaching staff and I believe he’s still making some changes to it. I think the Tennessee fans are in for some successful seasons. I really believe that’s on the way. Coach Pruitt is definitely on the right path. He’s a great coach and he’s getting the right players in there in order to be successful.

JM: I love that. In closing, why should a pro team use one of their draft picks on Kyle Phillips?

KP: A team should use one of their draft picks on Kyle Phillips because I’m the type of guy that’s going to come in and play multiple positions. I’m a quick learner so I can do anything that’s asked of me. I’ve had to play every position on the defensive line. I think that shows my versatility not just as an athlete, but as a player that’s knowledgable enough to quickly pick up on my responsibilities. At the end of the day, a rookie in the NFL will always have a lot to learn but I believe I’m fully capable of that. I’m going to pay close attention in the meeting room and soak up everything that I can from the guys around me. I believe all of those things will allow me to be successful at the next level. That’s why I think a team should pick me up.