Philips forcing way into backfield after hurdling versatility, academic difficulty

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on September 24, 2014 at 12:29 am Contact Sam: [email protected] | @SamBlum3 Ed McCarthy had seen Ervin Philips play Pop Warner football. He’d seen the running back’s quickness and power long before Philips played for him.But it wasn’t until the West Haven (Connecticut) High School football coach watched Philips play basketball in eighth grade that he knew he was going to be coaching someone special.“We knew he was going to be a good player, but I saw him as an eighth-grader playing basketball, McCarthy said. “He was a good defender and he had a really athletic body to say the least. He really knew how to play, and I think that was the case in football.”That versatility made the Syracuse freshman an option at several positions, but Philips has begun to prove his worth in an already deep running back core. Yet there was an uncertainty that a future in football awaited Philips due to academic issues in high school. But after overcoming those, he’s gone from untapped talent for Syracuse to contributing out of the backfield.In the Orange’s eighth drive against Central Michigan on Sept. 13, Philips ran the ball seven times for a total of 50 yards. Phillips was a two-star recruit who only received offers from Temple, Villanova and SU, and showed why Syracuse gave him a chance in his first opportunity to do so.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textHe also came within inches of him scoring his first career touchdown, but that will have to wait.“(My teammates) kind of clowned me a little bit on that play where I got stopped on the line,” Philips said. “They thought I should have gotten in.“I was heartbroken, I wanted that touchdown.”Syracuse head coach Scott Shafer said that had he not gotten playing time on the offense, he would have been played as a defensive back.The other coaches agree. He’s a running back and kick returner for Syracuse, but his capabilities extend past that.“You just see a guy that has the ability to do a lot of different things,” SU running backs coach DeAndre Smith said.Smith said Philips proved he was ready to get in-game action by showing he was physical enough to take snaps and had good downfield vision. By using his inside foot to start his runs, Philips is a half-step quicker, Smith said. His natural abilities make him a good option in the running game for SU, but Smith said he could theoretically play on the defense or even as a wide receiver.He remains a part of the Syracuse offense, Smith said, before noting that he’s in “a small package.” In Saturday’s 34-20 loss to Maryland, Philips had just one carry for negative six yards.Philips still doesn’t really know what he’s doing, Smith said. And in a way, that’s what’s made him the most impressed — vision and instincts mostly alone.“He’s really smart,” Smith said. “I think a lot of times that’s lost in having the ability to play, and then you actually have to be able to process what’s going on. That’s the No. 1 thing that caught my eye.”Grades almost kept him ineligible for college football, and Philips said a lot of schools backed off him during his senior year. He took the SAT several times, completed summer classes and met with teachers after classes ended.And now he’s working to solidify himself as a part of the running back core.“I didn’t have a lot of offers because my grades weren’t there, but Syracuse stuck with me throughout my whole senior year,” Philips said. “… I knew I had a goal. I knew what I wanted to do. It was to come here and play.” Commentslast_img read more