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When pondering the thought of the biggest plays I’ve ever witnessed, a few come to mind. You have the goal-line interception in Super Bowl XLIX, the “Helmet Catch” from Super Bowl XLII and the “Longest Yard” from way back in Super Bowl XXXIV. These seemingly scripted moments open the door for the Malcolm Butlers, David Tyrees and Mike Joneses of football to rise to the occasion when the spotlight is most bright, and establish a legacy.

I very well could see a player by the name of Darius Phillips step up to the occasion in that type of storyline at some point in his NFL career. Phillips has a knack for the big play. He reached the end zone in over five different ways during his college career, just lacking a passing and rushing score. Phillips was a standout returner during his time in Kalamazoo with six touchdowns coming on special teams, and another five via the defensive side of the ball.

Most notable in regards to Phillips’ game, he originally started out at wide receiver. As a freshman he was 3rd on the team with 479 receiving yards. As impressive as Phillips is at the corner position, he was reluctant to make the transition. However, it didn’t take long for him to make an impact. In just his fourth game on defense, he recorded two interceptions against J.T. Barrett in The Shoe.

In what has been a storied career for Phillips at WMU, the opening almost threw the entire script off completely. Phillips originally had his sights set on competing in the ACC and attending Syracuse University. When Doug Marrone decided to dart for the Buffalo Bills head coaching gig, he took running backs coach Tyrone Wheatley with him.

Wheatley had served as the primary component of Phillips’ recruitment, but when he departed, Phillips had no reason to head for north New York as Wheatley was his lone connection to the program. Thus, the doors were again open, and you bet Western Michigan and Eastern Michigan came calling. As you would expect, now Minnesota head coach, P.J. Fleck, won Phillips over with an impressive pitch, and the rest is history.

Darius Phillips cemented himself among the most prestigious players in WMU history. He now has his sights set on the Senior Bowl, with the Combine and NFL Draft in the distant future. Below I put together a film session piece on Darius Phillips, as he’s sure to place his draft stock on the ascend after this next week in Mobile.

Mr. Big Play

Darius Phillips intercepted 12 passes during three years at corner. Here you see a snappy break on the ball from Phillips as he watches the eyes of the quarterback the whole way. Picks up some valuable yardage on his way to setting the Broncos up with favorable field position.

You won’t see Phillips make much contact, but if he’s going to get in on a tackle, he’s going for the forced fumble. Superb and violent rip technique here to jar the ball loose. Has the presence of mind to scoop it up and run 56 yards for a momentum shifting touchdown on the road in East Lansing.

As I previously touched on, Darius Phillips first made a name for himself due to his return ability. From the same game as the previous clip, Phillips shows good vision in the open field on this 100 yard touchdown return. You see a nifty cut as he works his way up the left sideline. Another huge play on the big stage against a high powered Big Ten program.

Air Traffic Control

As you would expect from a converted wide receiver now playing defense, Phillips stands out when it comes to playing the ball in the air. He allowed some separation on this route but he was able to recover as the play developed into the redzone. You see him quickly locate the ball and reach that right hand in for the pass breakup on the deep ball. Also displays nice body control.

Another impressive finish playing the deep ball. Keeps up with his man downfield and is able to pounce over and get in for the pass breakup. You’ll rarely see someone outman him on jump balls. Phillips doesn’t wait for the ball, he attacks it.

One of my favorite reps that I’ve seen from Phillips. He blankets his man into the redzone and gets caught in a split situation. Hastily recognizes the ball’s drop angle, disengages his man and gets in position for another deep pass breakup. He’s shown off some nice length for a sub six-footer.

One Major Flaw

I wanna say this was the first rep I saw from Phillips. I was pleasantly impressed with his technique here. Showcases a strong grip to latch his man and carry him. But, now we’re talking about the areas of improvement. Towards the end of this Kareem Hunt run, you see Phillips work his way downfield into position to get in on the stop. He assumes his teammate has Hunt wrapped up (which is never a good call), and there is some lackadaisical effort on display. You want to see him attack the pile and help out on that stop, especially against a player like Hunt in a big #MACtion contest.

On the next drive, you see the same thing. Hunt breaks off a huge run, and while Phillips is in proximity to make a play on the ball carrier, you see him casually stroll downfield and run with Hunt rather than at him. He does, however, get in on the play at the very end, but it should’ve been impeded sooner.

Here you see Phillips get into a prime 1-on-1 situation in the backfield, but he freezes like a deer in headlights and doesn’t attack the ball carrier. Although, I liked his foot quickness as he closed on the reverse. Phillips is sure to be a liability in space early in his career, but his big play ability is worth fielding.

Closing Thoughts

Overall we’re set to see a group of corners in Mobile who, for the most part, have received limited exposure to this point. Other than guys like Anthony Averett, Duke Dawson and maybe even Christian Campbell, most of these corners aren’t very well known. Six of the participants at the position even come from outside the FBS.

My point being, I believe Darius Phillips has a strong chance to establish himself as the biggest riser among these players during Senior Bowl week. He’s garnering some well deserved hype right now, and that train can make an epic departure with a strong showing in Mobile.

About The Author Jonathan Valencia

The Editor-in-Chief of Breaking Football, Jonathan has been an amateur NFL Draft evaluator for nearly the past five years. He prides himself on producing extensive, informative content. Follow him on Twitter @JonValenciaBF for fresh draft takes and GIF analysis of draft prospects. Born and raised in the Jersey Shore area, Jonathan now resides in Washington state with his wife.