It’s perhaps the largest recruiting weekend of the 2020 cycle for Ohio State (though that’s hard to say without in season visits scheduled yet), and it’s starting off with one of the biggest booms imaginable. Just moments ago, Ohio State secured a commitment from four-star cornerback Clark Phillips.
While landing a top cornerback like Phillips in June is obviously a pretty massive deal for the Ohio State defensive staff that had, to this point, just two defensive commitments, the focus here shouldn’t be exclusively on Phillips as a number in a class. Phillips is an elite, top level cornerback talent, and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he jumps into the five star ranks by the end of this cycle. Let’s look at what makes him so good, and what he’s bringing to Columbus.
On the field
Phillips plays both ways for his high school team, and while there usually isn’t a ton to glean from that other than “this elite recruit is a really good athlete”, there is some importance to a cornerback that also plays wide receiver. That tells me that Phillips has good speed (this is supported by his 4.5 40 time), it tells me he’s at least capable of catching the ball, and has above average ball skills for a corner, and it tells me that he can run routes fluidly.
If a cornerback has elite speed, the ability to attack the ball, and can mirror the routes that receivers run against him? Well, that’s going to be a pretty good cornerback, and Phillips shows off all three of those traits on his film.
Now, I say traits, because in terms of tangible play at cornerback from Phillips that can be directly translated to college? There’s a bit less of that. He doesn’t do a ton of press coverage at this point (he won’t do a ton of it at Ohio State either), so it’s hard to say just how much those traits impact his man coverage ability. That’s not really important. What’s important is that he has them, and that Ohio State’s coaches can work with that.
What’s also important, and what’s perhaps the best thing that shows up on Phillips’ tape is his willingness to hit. It’s rare to see a young cornerback that likes to hit, and it’s pretty obvious that Phillips likes to hit. He does it well, too. He isn’t a super flashy tackler, which is good, given that he’s not big enough to get away with that. He wraps up well, keeps players in front of him, and takes good pursuit angles. That’s hard to coach young guys on, and Phillips comes with it pre-programmed. That’s a big deal.
That tackling ability, paired with a familiarity with zone coverage, and elite closing speed makes Phillips an almost perfect fit for the number two outside corner spot for Ohio State. I don’t expect him to be an elite, top notch, lockdown cornerback, but with his toughness and speed, he could serve in the enforcer role, while a more traditional lockdown corner lines up across from him. Against teams with physical outside receivers, or tough to guard slot receivers, Phillips will be an extremely valuable asset, and I expect Ohio State to use him as a physical specialist very early on in his career.
In the class
Phillips is the 13th member of Ohio State’s 2020 class. He’s the first cornerback, and the third defender, along with Ty Hamilton and Lejond Cavazos. His pledge jumps Ohio State ahead of Notre Dame in the 247Sports rankings, which means that the Buckeyes are back in the top five, despite having just those 13 pledges.
I don’t expect Phillips will be the final commit of the weekend either, so we could see Ohio State leap over Georgia and into the fourth spot if everything goes according to plan.
Phillips picked Ohio State over Cal and Notre Dame, though I feel this was really a Cal-Ohio State battle at the end. Ultimately, the chance to play for Jeff Hafley and Ohio State was too much for the home state Bears to overcome, despite their pretty excellent defensive backfield situation.