JUCO linebacker flips to Illinois
Illinois added its second player from NJCAA national champion Garden City (KS) on Wednesday, grabbing a commitment from linebacker Del’Shawn Phillips on the first day that schools can sign mid-year transfers.
"There was a lot I liked about Illinois," Phillips said. "As a linebacker, I felt it was the best school where I could develop my game."
The Illini just recently offered Phillips, and followed up the offer by hosting Phillips for an official visit this past weekend.
"When I went on the visit, it was about the people there," Phillips said. "They have the coaches that can help me the most."
Illinois also holds a commitment from Garden City CC quarterback Dwayne Lawson, a former Virgnia Tech signee.
A 2014 graduate of Detroit (Mich.) Cass Tech, Phillips originally signed with Western Michigan coming out of high school. He committed to Arizona in July, but flipped to the Illini and as is set to sign his NLI. The JUCO mid-year signing period runs Dec. 14 – Jan. 15.
Illinois graduates middle linebacker Hardy Nickerson, a former 5th year transfer from Cal. According to Phillips, the Illini staff sees him stepping into that role.
"I'm going to play the MIKE," Phillips said. "They want me to play the MIKE because I have the experience coming from the JUCO route. They like my IQ and my speed."
Phillips is a welcome addition to an Illini defense that had trouble stopping the run. He led Garden City this past season with 95 tackles while recording 12.5 TFL, two forced fumble, and three interceptions.
He could team with Tre Watson and Dele' Harding in the linebacker corps, giving the Illini are solid group of starters. Phillips says that his intensity and motor are the top things that he brings to the field.
"They are going to see a player who is out there giving it his all on every play," Phillips said. "Once I diagnose the play and I see where the ball is going, my speed can get me there."
Illinois now has two linebackers in the class of 2017. Phillips joins 3-star linebacker Marc Mondesir from Chicago St. Rita, who committed to the Illini in June.