He’s rais­ing mem­o­ries of Barr

Los Angeles Times - - BASEBALL - ben.bolch@la­times.com Twit­ter: @latb­bolch

Bru­ins right guard Kenny Lacy said. “I’m look­ing for him to make some plays for us in the first game.”

With a slim waist and a stout up­per body, the 6-foot-5, 255pound Phillips com­bines a line­backer’s speed with a power lifter’s strength. UCLA de­fen­sive line coach An­gus McClure com­pared Phillips’ build to that of former Bru­ins and cur­rent Min­nesota Vik­ings line­backer An­thony Barr.

“About the same height, same range, same quick­ness,” McClure said of Phillips and Barr, a two-time Pro Bowl se­lec­tion.

Phillips’ style is all his own. He spent hour af­ter hour study­ing film of him­self and NFL play­ers in re­cent months, ex­am­in­ing tech­niques that could help him im­prove his pass rush­ing.

He joked that his early suc­cess in train­ing camp was a re­sult of flow­ing locks that he’s let grow out re­cently, but those close to him re­al­ize he puts in the work es­sen­tial to be­com­ing a dom­i­nant player.

“He knows his reads, he un­der­stands the game of foot­ball, he uses his brain along with his body,” Tes­si­tore said. “He’s very smart. He’s just that spe­cial kid, once in a life­time.”

Phillips has en­ter­tained ob­servers while tor­ment­ing the of­fense and play­ing around with his friends dur­ing breaks in prac­tice. On the sec­ond day of camp, he en­gaged in a faux ninja war­rior bat­tle with fel­low de­fen­sive end Rick Wade, twirling a thin pipe used in drills while whirling his body. Wade re­sponded with a few play­ful kicks into the air be­fore both play­ers ended the ex­change with a bow.

Phillips never seems to rest even while on the side­line, shim­my­ing to hip-hop mu­sic blar­ing through speak­ers and lip sync­ing along to a Pearl Jam song.

“Foot­ball is a te­dious sport, so if you’re not hav­ing fun with it, what are you do­ing?” Phillips said when asked about his an­tics. “Ob­vi­ously, I stay fo­cused all the time, but just on the side if you’re not do­ing any­thing, I’ll just mess around a lit­tle bit. It’s fun.”

UCLA de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Tom Bradley said he didn’t con­sider Phillips a fresh­man be­cause of the way he’s soaked up the cul­ture of the pro­gram af­ter par­tic­i­pat­ing in spring prac­tice.

Phillips had played tight end be­fore his high school coaches stuck him at out­side line­backer dur­ing his sopho­more sea­son be­cause of his height. It was a smart move. He blocked an ex­tra point and re­cov­ered a fum­ble to help East Val­ley win a state bowl game by one point.

“He thought he was a re­ceiver-tight end type guy,” East Val­ley coach Kurt Bruich said, “and we had to con­vince him where he would ba­si­cally have the most suc­cess.”

He’s had plenty of that al­ready, reg­is­ter­ing a game-high five tack­les to go with a quar­ter­back hurry and half a sack in the U.S. Army All-Amer­i­can Bowl in Jan­uary and en­ter­ing camp as the most highly touted fresh­man on UCLA’s ros­ter.

It was no sur­prise that Phillips would be­come a Bruin con­sid­er­ing his father, grand­fa­ther and grand­mother all at­tended UCLA. An aunt even played French horn at the school. An ex­cel­lent stu­dent, Phillips once pon­dered go­ing to Stan­ford be­fore ac­knowl­edg­ing that his des­tiny was swathed in pow­derkeg blue and gold.

“I wanted to make my own way and stuff like that,” Phillips said, “but then I re­al­ized it’s my home and I’ve been here my whole life, been a Bruin fan my whole life, so this is the place for me for sure.”

Phillips has fit in just fine early in camp, reach­ing in his mus­cu­lar arm when the de­fen­sive line­men broke their po­si­tion hud­dle with a loud shout of “Dline show­time!”

“We go out there, make plays, have a great time,” Phillips said. “It’s show­time. It’s how it is.”

Any­one who lines up op­po­site Phillips might just want to ac­cept it.

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