Kyle Phillips is a unique case. He’s one of the Tennessee football players we mentioned who is poised for a breakout year. However, at the same time, he has proven enough and is at a thin enough spot on the roster to secure a starting position.
This is why Phillips is on the list. He already has high expectations to succeed as a guy entering his senior season and coming off his first full offseason in which he participated in all workouts. The previous two years, injuries held him back.
Once a five-star recruit, there’s no denying Phillips has talent. He also has experience. The real twist, though, is the depth at the position. No proven contributors are behind him at defensive end. So even though Jeremy Pruitt and Kevin Sherrer are really going for only one true defensive end in their 3-4 scheme, Phillips is the only guy who fits that mold.
The other competitors on the line are defensive tackles who can move over to end, which is why Shy Tuttle and Alexis Johnson didn’t make the list. They have to compete to a degree with Emmit Gooden and even Greg Emerson for two spots.
Meanwhile, the guys who could have competed with Phillips have moved to outside linebacker. This includes Jonathan Kongbo, Darrell Taylor, and even newcomer Jordan Allen. With those three competing for two spots, it’s why none of them made this list either. Staying put at defensive end all but secures Phillips a starting job.