Adrian Phillips

As we enter the fourth quarter of the NFL season, former Longhorns are still performing at high levels on the field. Here is how a few of them did this week.

Adrian Phillips

Phillips and the Chargers pulled out a win at home against the winless Cleveland Browns over the weekend. The former Longhorn safety only had two tackles, but came up with the game-clinching interception in the waning moments of the game. The third year man has played extremely well in the back end for Los Angeles this season. In five of his last eight games, he has recorded at least six tackles. All of this coming while still being listed as the backup at both safety positions.

Thanks in part to Phillips’ play, the Chargers are now 6–6 and in a three way tie for first place in the open AFC West. The Chargers will look to go for a fourth-straight win as they play a struggling Washington team on Sunday at home.

Marquise Goodwin

Goodwin helped the San Francisco 49ers earn their second win of the season on Sunday. The 27-year old had eight catches for 99 yards in legendary Soldier Field, home of the Chicago Bears. Goodwin is playing the best football of his career right now as he has surpassed the half-century mark five times in his last six games. He will look to build on his good rapport with young quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who targeted Goodwin eight times on Sunday.

Fozzy Whittaker

With the addition of Christian McCaffrey, Fozzy Whittaker has fallen out of the backfield rotation in Carolina. The now third-string running back has been nearly non-existent this season. He has only recorded four carries for 10 yards to go along with three receptions and 34 yards. This production is severely down from last season’s 82 touches for over 500 yards.

The Panthers have seen the speed and agility that Fozzy brings to the table and have decided to use him in a special teams capacity. In the past two games, Whittaker has accounted for 91 return yards. His new role as return man has given him a return to the field and a chance to help the 8–4 Panthers as they gear up for their
playoff run.

As the Longhorns suited up on Saturday to face off against Kansas State in Austin, numerous former Texas players took the field in the NFL. Here’s how four former
Longhorns fared in week five.

D’Onta Foreman

Foreman forewent his final year of eligibility to enter the 2017 NFL Draft after leading the Longhorns in yards, carries and touchdowns in 2016. And in the draft, Foreman landed three hours southeast of Austin, ending up with the
Houston Texans.

So far in his rookie campaign, Foreman has mainly been used as a complimentary piece to starting running back Lamar Miller. In a limited sample size, Foreman has averaged roughly four yards a carry. He has shown flashes of the power and speed that helped him rush for over 2,000 yards in his final season as a Longhorn. And while he is not yet a featured part of the Texans’ offense, his performance suggests that he will be more involved in weeks to come.

Kenny Vaccaro

Vaccaro has fought his way out of the dog house and back onto the field after being benched by Saints’ head coach Sean Payton three weeks ago. The former All-Big 12 first-teamer has raised his level of play for the New Orleans Saints’ defense, which is ranked No. 16 against the pass this year. The Saints are up from their No. 32 pass defense a year ago.

So far this season, Vaccaro has 21 tackles and one interception. He will look to improve upon a solid first quarter of the season on Sunday against the Lions.

Adrian Phillips

Phillips has worked his way up from being undrafted in 2014 and was signed from the practice squad in October 2015 to the Los Angeles Chargers after an injury to starting safety Eric Weddle. The former Longhorn is looking to build on a 2016 campaign in which he had six starts.

The 25-year-old safety has become a viable option in the Chargers’ secondary. He is coming off of an eight-tackle performance against the Giants, which was also the team’s first win of the season.
His season thus far has included 13 tackles and one interception.

Earl Thomas

After suffering a broken leg last season, Thomas is back and playing at his usual All-Pro level. Thomas had a busy day on Sunday, tallying seven tackles, one interception and a forced fumble on the goal line. His performance warranted him the NFC defensive player of the week award. The former Texas standout has been a top contributor on an NFC West contender for eight years now and has helped lead one of the most elite pass defenses in the entire NFL.

STOCK UP:

 

WR Mike Davis (Sr.)

Well, hello there Mr. Davis. Apparently he saw himself on the “Stock Down” portion of last week’s segment and decided to do something about it — and boy, did he. The senior wideout had his best game in conference play, breaking out for 91 yards on three catches, none bigger than the 49-yard touchdown he reeled in with 4:15 remaining in the third quarter. With Oklahoma State in town for a game with huge conference title implications, the Longhorns need Davis to have an encore performance.

 

WR Jaxon Shipley (Jr.)

While Davis is more of a home run threat, Shipley has fortified his role in this offense as “Mr. Reliable.” He was the man of the hour in Saturday’s game against West Virginia, recording his first touchdown of season on an acrobatic catch in the corner of the end zone before hauling in a nine-yard pass on 4th-and-7 to give the Longhorns a crucial first down. If Davis can stretch the field against the Cowboys and draw some double teams in the secondary, Shipley should have a field day.

 

S Adrian Phillips (Sr.)

After a couple of subpar games in which he didn’t tackle well, Phillips came back strong against the Mountaineers, recording eight solo tackles and his second interception of the season. Although the Longhorns gave up 40 points on Saturday, just imagine how many they would have allowed Phillips not made those plays in one-on-one situations.

 

 

STOCK DOWN:

 

RB Johnathan Gray (So.)

Gray was the Longhorns’ primary offensive weapon heading into the West Virginia game, averaging over 20 carries and 90 rushing yards a game in Big 12 play. Unfortunately, he suffered a ruptured Achilles on a 27-yard run and is now lost for the rest of the season — a crushing blow for this team. With their most talented player now on the sidelines, how will this this offense respond?

 

DT Chris Whaley (Sr.)

If Gray’s injury wasn’t costly enough for the Longhorns, Whaley’s surely is. The senior defensive tackle had shown a knack for making big plays but is now done for the season after injuring his knee against the Mountaineers. This defense will need someone to step in and fill the massive void that Whaley’s absence creates.

 

CB Duke Thomas (So.)

Surrounded by Phillips, senior cornerback Carrington Byndom and standout junior cornerback Quandre Diggs, Thomas is by far the least experienced member of the Longhorns secondary. Although he has mostly played well, he also gets burned at times. On Saturday, he got burned — badly. With Texas nursing a four-point lead in the fourth quarter, Thomas got beat on an inside move by West Virginia’s Mario Alford, who blew past him for an easy 72-yard go-ahead touchdown. It didn’t cost Texas the game, but it could have. Thomas has to play smarter. 

Photo Credit: Pu Ying Huang | Daily Texan Staff

Junior defensive end Cedric Reed didn’t realize how effective he could be at swatting down passes before being inserted into the starting lineup this season.

In fact, he didn’t even consider the importance of pass breakups until a local NFL player earned national buzz for the same feat.  

“It just kind of came to me,” Reed said. “I’m from Houston, and I watch the Texans a lot, and J.J. Watt is pretty cool. I didn’t notice it until he started doing it. It’s a game changer, especially on third down. I’m trying to get a lot more.”

Through seven games this season, Reed is tied for the team lead with four pass breakups, a statistic normally dominated by defensive backs. While his imposing 6-foot-6-inch, 258-pound frame is ideal for generating breakups, Reed’s impact along the defensive line stretches far beyond his ability to get his hands on opposing throws.

Reed leads the Longhorns with 42 tackles and is second on the team with three sacks. Additionally, the junior racked up 7.5 tackles for a loss through his first seven contests while forcing a pair of fumbles. 

“He’s making a great name for himself, and tackles hate going against him,” senior safety Adrian Phillips said. “He’s a person who can stop the run and get to the quarterback, and really that’s what you look for in a D-end. I think this is a great start for him.”

Reed entered the season with the tall task of filling the starting role vacated by Alex Okafor, a fourth round selection by the Arizona Cardinals in the 2013 NFL Draft. Despite this, senior defensive tackle Chris Whaley said he expected Texas’ defensive line to remain just as strong with Reed in the lineup.

“I wasn’t expecting a big drop off,” Whaley said. “I know what kind of player Ced is, and I know what he can do. He’s really stepping up to the table, and he’s making big contributions to the defensive front.”

Regular playing time is not entirely new for Reed, as he filled in last season after defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat missed the final six games with a torn
pectoral muscle. Reed racked up 46 tackles and 2.5 sacks in 2012, and head coach Mack Brown believes his experience last season eased his transition into the starting lineup this season.

“Cedric Reed probably got a break last year when Jeffcoat got hurt because he played more at an early age than a lot of sophomores do,” Brown said. “He’s steadily becoming one of the best ends in the country.”

Reed believes he has made considerable strides over the past two seasons, and he said his hard work is paying off this year.

“I feel I’ve came a long way since my freshman year, especially last year playing last year when Jackson went down,” Reed said. “I just see things better, I feel more confident out there, and I’m stronger. Everything is coming together for me.”

Senior cornerback Carrington Byndom refuses to take it personally when opposing quarterbacks target the receiver he is covering. In fact, he embraces having the ball thrown in his direction.

“Always,” Byndom said. “I’m a cornerback. That’s always a good thing.”

The senior thrives off of making game-changing plays when given the opportunity. Byndom boasts an impressive résumé of five interceptions, 27 passes defended and a pair of defensive touchdowns over the course of his stellar four-year career, and the Longhorns’ opponents seem to have taken notice so far this season.

“They really haven’t thrown at him much this year,” head coach Mack Brown said. “Everybody’s been going away from him. He’s been healthy this year and it’s been
interesting that a lot of people have gone to the other side and stayed away from him.”

While he has yet to force a turnover through six games this season, Byndom continues to contribute. He regularly matches up against the opponent’s top receiver, and senior safety Adrian Phillips said this opens things up for the rest of the defense.

“Whoever’s their best receiver, he’ll be on them,” Phillips said. “Having a guy like that, knowing you can put him on someone and knowing he’s pretty much locked up for the whole game, it brings a lot to our defense and we’re able to do a lot of things with that.”

In addition to starring as a shutdown corner, Byndom plays an active role in pursuit of the ball. The senior cornerback registered 10 tackles for a loss and two forced fumbles in his first three seasons, and he recorded his only career sack as a junior last year.

As one of the most experienced members of the Texas secondary, Byndom also holds a leadership role on the Longhorns’ defense. Junior cornerback Quandre Diggs rooms with Byndom on road trips, and he said the senior cornerback served as one of his mentors during his first two seasons.

“He’s been a guy that’s taught me a lot,” Diggs said. “When I came in, he was one of the guys that took me under his wing. He’s one of the guys that keeps me focused and keeps me level-headed. He’s quiet, but when he does say something, everybody respects it.”

While he is not a particularly vocal member of the locker room, Byndom continues to lead the younger members of the secondary by offering positive reinforcement and setting a
strong example. 

“I know the younger guys look up to me with my experience,” Byndom said. “I just keep them going and keep them positive, and they do the same for me. I just continue to do what I can for them each game.”

Byndom figures to secure a job in the NFL after this season, but for now he remains focused on his time at Texas. The senior cornerback said the Longhorns’ biggest goal revolves around winning the rest of their games this season, and he believes doing this allows each of his individual goals to take care of themselves.

“It’s all about the team for me first, and I think the biggest goal for us now is to win out,” Byndom said. “The closest goal is just to win this week. It’s all about the team for me. All of the individual goals will come later, and as long as we’re winning games, my goals are fine.”

The senior cornerback remains dedicated to leading Texas to a Big 12 championship in his final opportunity to win the conference. The Longhorns’ defense must continue improving in order to achieve this, and no player figures to be more vital to this than Byndom.

Senior cornerback Carrington Byndom refuses to take it personally when opposing quarterbacks target the receiver he is covering. In fact, he embraces having the ball thrown in his direction.

“Always,” Byndom said. “I’m a cornerback. That’s always a good thing.”

The senior thrives off of making game-changing plays when given the opportunity. Byndom boasts an impressive résumé of five interceptions, 27 passes defended and a pair of defensive touchdowns over the course of his stellar four-year career, and the Longhorns’ opponents seem to have taken notice so far this season.

“They really haven’t thrown at him much this year,” head coach Mack Brown said. “Everybody’s been going away from him. He’s been healthy this year and it’s been
interesting that a lot of people have gone to the other side and stayed away from him.”

While he has yet to force a turnover through six games this season, Byndom continues to contribute. He regularly matches up against the opponent’s top receiver, and senior safety Adrian Phillips said this opens things up for the rest of the defense.

“Whoever’s their best receiver, he’ll be on them,” Phillips said. “Having a guy like that, knowing you can put him on someone and knowing he’s pretty much locked up for the whole game, it brings a lot to our defense and we’re able to do a lot of things with that.”

In addition to starring as a shutdown corner, Byndom plays an active role in pursuit of the ball. The senior cornerback registered 10 tackles for a loss and two forced fumbles in his first three seasons, and he recorded his only career sack as a junior last year.

As one of the most experienced members of the Texas secondary, Byndom also holds a leadership role on the Longhorns’ defense. Junior cornerback Quandre Diggs rooms with Byndom on road trips, and he said the senior cornerback served as one of his mentors during his first two seasons.

“He’s been a guy that’s taught me a lot,” Diggs said. “When I came in, he was one of the guys that took me under his wing. He’s one of the guys that keeps me focused and keeps me level-headed. He’s quiet, but when he does say something, everybody respects it.”

While he is not a particularly vocal member of the locker room, Byndom continues to lead the younger members of the secondary by offering positive reinforcement and setting a
strong example. 

“I know the younger guys look up to me with my experience,” Byndom said. “I just keep them going and keep them positive, and they do the same for me. I just continue to do what I can for them each game.”

Byndom figures to secure a job in the NFL after this season, but for now he remains focused on his time at Texas. The senior cornerback said the Longhorns’ biggest goal revolves around winning the rest of their games this season, and he believes doing this allows each of his individual goals to take care of themselves.

“It’s all about the team for me first, and I think the biggest goal for us now is to win out,” Byndom said. “The closest goal is just to win this week. It’s all about the team for me. All of the individual goals will come later, and as long as we’re winning games, my goals are fine.”

The senior cornerback remains dedicated to leading Texas to a Big 12 championship in his final opportunity to win the conference. The Longhorns’ defense must continue improving in order to achieve this, and no player figures to be more vital to this than Byndom.

STOCK UP:

RB Malcolm Brown (Jr.)

Before last week’s Red River Rivalry game against Oklahoma, Brown had been a ghost, carrying the ball 23 times for 63 yards through the first five games of the season. But Brown practically gashed the Sooners’ vaunted defense for 120 yards on 23 carries. This marked Brown’s best performance since his freshman year and the first time he topped the century mark since last year’s opener against Wyoming. If Brown continues to play like this, watch out: he and Johnathan Gray could form a dangerous 1-2 punch out of the Texas backfield.

 

RB/WR Daje Johnson (So.) 

After a sizzling start to the season against New Mexico State, injuries had either made Johnson a non-factor or forced him to sit out games altogether. Johnson scored for the first time since Texas’ season opener when he returned a third-quarter punt 85 yards for a touchdown, flashing his impressive speed en route to giving Texas a comfortable 29-13 lead. Whether it’s in the running game, as a receiver or as a returner, Johnson has shown he has the game-changing talent to reach the end zone any time he touches the ball.

 

S Adrian Phillips (Sr.) 

For much of this season, Phillips had been the primary target for criticism of the Longhorn defense. Whether it was in coverage or tackling, he was typically the first to be blamed for the defense’s many costly mistakes. But he has rallied and played well for Texas, providing senior leadership for a unit forced to adjust to a new coordinator in Greg Robinson. Phillips looked especially strong in the run game against the Sooners, totaling nine tackles, five of which were solo.

 

STOCK DOWN:

Kick Coverage 

Although Texas excelled against Oklahoma in the punt return game, netting an 85-yard touchdown in the third quarter by Daje Johnson, the team struggled to cover kickoffs. On his only two return attempts, the Sooners’ Roy Finch totaled 97 yards, including a 73-yarder that set Oklahoma up for an easy touchdown just before halftime. 

 

WR Jaxon Shipley (Jr.)

Despite being back to full health, Shipley has struggled to make a consistent impact for this Texas offense and still has not reached the end zone this season, leaving many shaking their heads. Through six games, Shipley has 347 receiving yards, less than 60 yards per game. His numbers have dropped significantly since the Longhorns began Big 12 play, during which he has 13 catches for 119 yards in three games. Considering the connection he and senior quarterback Case McCoy have had in the past, this lack of production is shocking.

Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

In high school, Adrian Phillips was an offensive powerhouse.

He recorded 949 passing yards and five touchdowns as a quarterback while tallying 72 catches for 1,307 yards and 14 touchdowns as a wide receiver. Now, he’s playing that quarterback role on the other side of the ball as one Texas’ leading defensive backs.

“He’s a quarterback,” head coach Mack Brown said. “He’s a really smart guy. He was a quarterback in high school. He knows what the offense is doing and can move people around. That’s why he’s so vital.”

Texas has been known to recruit offensive stars as defensive backs in the past. The Longhorns tried to recruit Robert Griffin III and Johnny Manziel, both Heisman Trophy winners, as defensive players before they signed to their respective schools. This time it worked out with Phillips.

Phillips has become a prominent player in the Texas backfield. In his sophomore season, he recorded 43 tackles compared with just nine his freshman year. Phillips suffered a shoulder injury in his second year and underwent surgery that slightly halted his junior campaign until he was fully able to recover.

“The biggest difference between this year and last for Adrian is that he’s healthy,” Brown said.

This season, Phillips has recorded 39 tackles, already more than half of the 72 he tallied last year. He leads the team with 27 solo tackles and is one of only two defensive backs to record an interception so far this season.

Phillips has also been a quintessential role model in the adjustment defensive coordinator Greg Robinson has gone through since he took over the defensive play-caller duties from Manny Diaz.

“We needed guys to, one, buy into Greg and sell the other players that he is going to help us win,” Brown said. “Adrian was a big part of that. Him and Jordan Hicks said, ‘This guy knows what he’s doing. Let’s keep our mouths shut and get to it.’”

In that transition, which happened following an embarrassing loss to BYU early in September, Phillips hasn’t seen his role change. Despite the different schemes that Robinson has drawn up, he feels his responsibilities are still the same.

“[My role] hasn’t really changed,” Phillips said. “I still do what I do. Wherever they need me I’m there. I still have the same responsibilities that I did in coach Diaz’s defense. Of course coach Robinson’s defense is a different scheme but at the end of the stay it’s all
the same.”

Robinson has also taken a liking to Phillips, citing his work ethic and consistent play as some of his key features. So far this season, the safety has had two nine tackle games and is just three tackles away from the leading tackler on the team.

“Adrian Phillips is an outstanding football player,” Robinson said. “Coaches sometimes get seduced by physical skills, but you have got to learn how to quantify the intangible characteristics. That kid is physically gifted but the intangible characteristics that he brings to our defense is hard to quantify.”

Mike Davis sits down near the corner of the end zone. The wide receiver leads the Longhorns with 20 catches this year but is part of a senior class that is in danger of becoming the first in 10 years to not reach a BCS bowl. 

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

Almost four years ago, players offered scholarships by Texas watched the Longhorns compete for a national championship and come one Colt McCoy injury short of winning its fifth national title. A month later, 25 of those athletes signed their national letter of intent to become Longhorns.

For 12 of those players, their days in a burnt orange uniform are numbered and they have one final year—specifically nine, maybe 10 games—left to make their mark on the 40 acres.

This senior class, made up of a total of 13 players, including walk-ons, is the only class in a decade at Texas not to play in a BCS bowl. Coming into the season, coaches thought they would use that as a
fighting point.

“There’s a sense of urgency among this senior class,” former defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said at the start of the season. “They were recruited during the 2009 title game period. That was part of their reason for coming here.”

These seniors, however, are starting the season the way they came into their career. The first year these players were at Texas, the team went 5-7, the first losing season under Mack Brown. Now three games into the season, this current team is closer to another 5-7 season than a BCS game.

Nevertheless, this is their last chance to change that and they know that.

“I do know how that 5-7 year felt. That was my freshman year,” senior Adrian Phillips said. “We are going to do everything in our power to make sure that we won’t have that season again.”

After two straight losses that attitude is starting to show. On Sunday’s practice, senior Trey Hopkins talked to his team to make sure the haunting memory of 2010 doesn’t become another reality.

“All I said was from a senior’s point of view, we have to realize that we have to turn this thing around,” Hopkins said. “Before we know it, this year is going to be over. I think about our time here at Texas, we really have to focus on the now and not look too far into the future. Not look at games in the future and focus on this specific moment. Nothing past this is promised.”

Longhorns fans hope that message will work. Co-ffensive coordinator Major Applewhite remembers how he felt when the time was coming to an end for the seniors he played with.

“It always meant something to me when a coach told me you have 44 games left—this is when they used to play 11 in a season—but that guy over there only has 11,” Applewhite said. “You felt a sense of obligation to make sure the seniors went out the way they wanted to go out.”

With the current predicament Texas has put itself into with a 1-2 start, the team has a bad taste in its mouth. The 13 seniors on this struggling team can count the number of days they have left and to them they feel like they shouldn’t be in this position. They have to bring it upon themselves to prove otherwise.

“I don’t feel like a 1-2 team at all,” senior Jackson Jeffcoat said. “It’s disappointing that we are 1-2.  We don’t like that.  We don’t like the taste.  We’re mad about it.  We know we have a lot to prove.”

Simply put, the seniors don’t want to bookend their career at Texas with other losing season, but to do that work needs to be done on this “player-led” team.

“[This] is not an unfixable team,” Jeffcoat said. “We can still win the rest of the games. We still can. We still have a lot of football to play.”

Texas will look to knock off Kansas State for the first time since 2003 this weekend. The Longhorns are 0-5 during that stretch with a total point differential of -70. A win over the Wildcats would bring Texas back to .500 on the season.

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

Texas players took great offense when Kansas State's senior linebacker Tre Walker said laying down in games is “just what [the Longhorns] do” at Big 12 Media Day in July.

“It’s basically a slap in the face,” senior safety Adrian Phillips said. “You don’t want to hear that. You want to be known for being physical, fighting throughout the whole game, getting wins. When you have a player talking like that, it’s a slap in the face. Our team took it personally.”

The Longhorns have the opportunity to prove Walker wrong this Saturday when they host Kansas State for their Big 12 opener. More importantly, though, they are eager to snap a dubious streak against the Wildcats that’s plagued them for the past decade.

Texas enters Saturday with a five-game losing streak against Kansas State, dating back to 2006. These losses include a 42-24 drubbing in last year’s regular season finale, allowing the Wildcats to clinch a share of the 2012 Big 12 title. 

“It’s time to break that hold that Kansas State has on us,” Phillips said. “They have had it on us for the last few years. I don’t know why. I couldn’t tell you why. We have to get a win this Saturday.”

While many players stress the importance of ending the streak, co-offensive coordinator Major Applewhite looks at Saturday’s matchup as just the next game on the schedule. Applewhite realizes that many of the contributors from earlier in the decade no longer play, and he believes past games have no bearing on this one.

“All those games carry their own identity,” Applewhite said. “They all were played a certain way with certain players. [Kansas State head coach Bill] Snyder isn’t telling them the 1999 game matters. He’s talking about 2013.”

That said, it is difficult to ignore the Wildcats’ stranglehold over Texas in recent history. Since Mack Brown took over as head coach in 1998, the Longhorns are just 2-7 against Kansas State while posting a .788 winning percentage against all other opponents.

“Some teams seem to match up better than others,” Brown said. “They get the confidence that whatever happens we’re going to win the game. We got to flip that switch this weekend.”

Senior defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat is ready to put those struggles behind him, and he expects his team to be prepared and determined to defeat the Wildcats and pick up its first conference win.

“It’s all in the past,” Jeffcoat. “It’s all about this year, all about what we’re going to do this year. We’ll have to see what they do on film, where we can capitalize on things they do, what kind of technique we have to play with, how we can beat them.”

Between Walker’s comments in the summer and the lingering losing streak, there is no shortage of motivators for the Longhorns to win this week. Following a 1-2 start to the season, the Texas players know that no storyline is more important than picking up a win.

“We’ve been waiting on this game since [Big 12] Media Day,” Phillips said. “The game is more amped up now. For us being in the place that we’re in, the defense knows the game is going to be on us. We’re just ready for Saturday.”