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For Jaelan Phillips, What A Difference A Year Makes

The junior defensive end is seeing his NFL Draft stock rise with each game.

Michael Laughlin/South Florida Sun Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Last August, Jaelan Phillips arrived at the University of Miami, weighing around 220 pounds, knowing he wasn’t going to be able to play in 2019 after transferring from UCLA earlier that year. After battling with injuries, there were some who thought he’d never get back to the playing level that made him the number one recruit in the country once upon a time in 2017.

Now, the junior defensive end, who got to 270 pounds heading into the 2020 season, Phillips is among the most improved players in college football, and is a very strong candidate for declaring early for the NFL Draft.

When Gregory Rousseau announced that he’d be opting out for the 2020 season, I was a little skeptical on how Miami’s defensive ends would fare, but Phillips and fellow DE Quincy Roche have put those doubts to rest.

In the eight games that Miami has played this 2020 season, Phillips has been one of the more productive players not just on the defense, but the entire roster. In those eight games, Phillips has totaled 37 tackles, 10.5 TFLs and 5 sacks. He also added an interception against FSU.

It’s been in the past two games however, where Phillips has elevated his play to another level.

In the Canes Friday night showdown against NC State in early November, Phillips led the team with 10 tackles, 1.5 TFL and 1 sack, also breaking up a pass. His defensive efforts helped Miami escape Raleigh with a 44-41 win.

The next week against Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Phillips was fantastic once again. In a game where he was named ACC Defensive Lineman of the Week, Phillips finished the day with 8 tackles, 4.5 TFLs and 2.5 sacks, as the Canes were victorious 25-24.

With a combined 18 tackles, 6 TFLs and 3.5 sacks in the last two games combined, Phillips stock in the 2021 NFL Draft has increased significantly, with some scouts now viewing him as a potential late first round-early second round pick.

Whether or not Phillips will leave early for the NFL is a question that’ll most likely be answered sooner rather than later, but for now, let’s just keep watching him tear it up in a Hurricanes uniform.