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2020 SOTU Awards: Defensive Player of the Year - Jaelan Phillips

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In 2020, nobody was more dominant on Miami’s defense than Jaelan Phillips.

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

Over the last several years, the defensive line has been perhaps the strongest unit for the Miami Hurricanes, and has been led by one player who shined brighter than most, and 2020 was no different. During the 2020 season, it was defensive end, Jaelan Phillips, who had himself one phenomenal year.

Phillips journey to this point is well documented. He was the number-one recruit in the nation in 2017 coming out of high school in California, before committing to UCLA. However, because of injuries, Phillips decided to enter the transfer portal in the early months of January of 2019, before transferring to Coral Gables and coming to UM.

Phillips sat out the 2019 season due to eligibility rules, and because of injuries and not playing, he was down to 220 pounds in the fall of 2019. Still, there was still the hope that he could one day get back to the playing level that made him the nations top recruit.

Coming into the 2020 season, Miami fans were beyond excited, with the thought of having the trio of Phillips, Gregory Rousseau and Quincy Roche, all at the defensive end position. Though, when Rousseau announced he’d be opting out of 2020, that excitement turned into a bit of nervousness, hoping Phillips could fill the role of Big Greg.

Phillips did not disappoint. Not at all.

In 2020, Phillips finished the season with 45 tackles, 15.5 TFLs, 8 sacks, 3 pass deflections and 1 interception. For his efforts on the playing field, Phillips was named first-team All-American by CBS Sports and 247 Sports.

Phillips decided to forgo his senior season, and declare early for the NFL Draft, where he’s now being viewed as a first-round pick.

While he may not be back in the orange and green in 2021, Phillips season in 2020 will long be remembered by Miami fans.