INDIANAPOLIS — When Clark Phillips III gets a goal in mind, one thing’s for certain: he’s writing it down somewhere.
Ever since he arrived at Utah, he’s made sure he’s always had two things in his room: a notebook and a whiteboard. As soon as he gets his mind on something, he makes sure he jots it down so he’ll see a reminder of it until the goal is complete.
He’s carried the notebook with him ever since his father made that a staple of his family’s philosophy. The whiteboard joined when Clark III arrived in Salt Lake City, and after his success at Utah, it’s clear both will follow him to the NFL.
“My dad was super big on that in everything we did as a family,” Phillips said. “We’ve tried to set up every single next step, every single next process, every single next phase by writing down what we want to accomplish. It’s been a habit I formed since I can remember, and now it’s just something I do.
“I’m a visual learner, so being able to see everything every day is big. Every morning, I’m looking at that. So if my actions aren’t lining up with my goals for that day, then I’ve got to adjust.”
So far, he hasn’t had to make many adjustments. Ever since he arrived at Utah as the Utes’ highest-profile recruit ever, he’s met or exceeded every expectation at the corner position. In 2022, Phillips earned first-team All-American honors and proved instrumental in the Utes claiming their second straight Pac-12 championship.
With USC out in front 14-3 in the second quarter and facing third and goal on the Utah 3, the Trojans tried to find star receiver Jordan Addison cutting across the front of the end zone. Phillips got there first, swatting away the pass and forcing a field goal. That play proved to be the momentum swing, as Utah outscored SC 44-7 the rest of the way.
Phillips had a lot to do with that too, as he made Addison a non-factor that night. In their first meeting in Salt Lake City, Addison won the battle with 106 yards and a score, but Phillips won the war in a 43-42 Utah victory. The second time around, Phillips made sure he won both.
Across the Pac-12, it was the same story. The Utes’ defense led the conference in yards allowed (325.3 per game) and points surrendered (20.4 per game), in part because Phillips essentially cut out a third of the field for opposing quarterbacks.
“Clark Phillips is a really smart, cerebral player,” UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson said. “He started the year with a lot of picks, and he picked myself off when we played them. He was one of the guys I really had to keep an eye on.”
Most Pac-12 quarterbacks got the hint after that and the Oregon State game, in which Phillips recorded three interceptions, including a pick-six. That game came about in large part because of his preparation, something he’s learned how to do over time.
“In my first season, I thought I knew how to watch film, but I wasn’t really watching,” Phillips said. “I had to go from watching personnel and specifics to watching formations and watching down and distance.
“I credit that to coach (defensive coordinator Morgan) Scalley and (cornerbacks) coach (Sharrieff) Shah, and in year three, I feel like I put it all together.”
The Steelers appear to feel the same way about Phillips. The corner confirmed that he’s met with the Steelers’ coaching staff, and he believes his ability to fly to the football would help him fill a need in western Pennsylvania.
“At Utah, we have a culture of RSNB: relentless, smart, nasty ballhawks,” Phillips said. “That’s what I think I am as a football player, and that what separates me from the rest of the guys.”
So does his notebook, which he says is for his eyes only until he actually achieves his goals.
“I’ve written down a lot of them, but I can’t tell them like I didn’t before,” Phillips said. “A lot of people would have laughed, but I’m excited to show everyone what I can do.”
TALE OF THE TAPE
Measured at the combine: 5-foot-8, 184 pounds, 29 1/8-inch armspan
Combine results: 4.51-second 40-yard dash, 1.5.1-second 10-yard split, 33-inch vertical jump
CLARK PHILLIPS SCOUTING REPORT
When it comes to the prototypical corner, Phillips has the entire package except for his size. He’s not a big man at just 5’10”, but his instincts and skills around the ball make up for his height deficiencies. The way that he handled receivers like Jordan Addison and Jaxon Smith-Njigba shows that he knows what he’s doing around the football, and he handles zone defenses well. As long as he continues to play above his size, he’ll be a valuable pass defender.
HOW DOES HE FIT?
The Steelers need a top cornerback with excellent ball skills, and Phillips would fit the bill. Pittsburgh has made no secret of the fact that it wants to add a quality young corner, and the Steelers seem to have met with every possible corner prospect that could be selected in the first three rounds. Phillips isn’t the best tackler because of his size, but he can take away a large chunk of the field from opposing quarterbacks, and he’s a quick study to put himself in the right position.
WHERE WILL HE BE DRAFTED?
The consensus with Phillips is that he’ll either get picked late in the first round or early in the second round. The Steelers’ pick at the front of the second round might very well be the sweet spot to take Phillips if they believe he’s the right fit for them at the corner position. Most drafts have him slotted somewhere between 24 and 44, so the Steelers should have a good shot at Phillips if they want him. They won’t take him at 17, but the Steelers could either hope he falls to them at 32, trade back into the first round to get him in the late 20s or trade down from 17 and get him a bit later.