Illini Football: Is Carroll Phillips a 3-4 OLB or 4-3 Will in the NFL?

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Illinois football had a very rough season in 2016, but that doesn’t mean they won’t have a strong presence in the 2017 NFL Draft.

Two Illini defensive ends, Dawuane Smoot and Carroll Phillips, will certainly hear their name called in this draft, it’s just a question of where. Illinois finished 105th in the nation (out of 128 teams) in rushing defense and that of course raises some issues about the run stuffing capabilities of all members of the Illini defense.

On the opposite of the spectrum, Illinois finished tenth in the nation in tackles for a loss. 

Carroll Phillips finished seventh in the nation, second in the Big Ten in TFLs per game (1.7), 26th in the nation, fourth in the Big Ten in sacks per game (0.75), second in the nation in solo TFLs (19) and 12th in the nation in solo sacks (9).

We do not have Smoot or Phillips slotted in our latest NFL mock draft, but that’s because we only do one round. Walter Football, one of the few mock drafts, and perhaps the only mock on the net which goes four rounds, have both Smoot and Phillips going in the third round. Phillips also appears in the third round of this second mock draft on Walter Football.

We spoke with NFL Network Draftnik Mike Mayock about the draft stock of Dawuane Smoot and Carroll Phillips.

“I think Phillips can’t be a 4-3 defensive end,” offered Mayock.

“I think he’s got to be a 3-4 outside linebacker. He’s not big enough or strong enough to stand up in the run game. But he’s got rare, physical gifts. A lot of his sack production came at a running chase. He’s going to struggle at the point of attack. He’s a one-year wonder, which people worry about. I’m not sure about issues off the field. I think Phillips is going to be a 3-4 outside linebacker or a 4-3 will.

“And he’s probably a fourth or fifth round guy.”

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Illinois obviously played him at defensive end, in their 4-3 system, but the NFL is obviously a whole different beast. Illini football Coach Lovie Smith begs to differ with the Phillips assessments that have been offered publicly.

“That’s their assessment, when we had him, he was at right end and he needs to be in a position to rush the passer, simple as that. wherever you play him,” said Smith.

“Some guys are more suited to going forwards instead of going backwards, rushing as opposing to dropping back into coverage.”

Added Defensive Coordinator Hardy Nickerson: “it’s hard to say where guys fit, there’s a few different schemes in the NFL.”

Both Nickerson and Smith also gave the industry standard coachspeak cliches, saying that whatever Phillips does, he’ll do it well, and that any team that ends up selecting him will get a great football player. (Everyone gets a letter of recommendation from their former boss when applying for a new gig, right?)

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“One thing that’s overlooked for him is his strength,” said Illini DL James Crawford, former teammate of Carroll Phillips.

“Because of his size they don’t really see him as a strong guy but he’s actually one of the strongest guys on the team last year and that won’t go unnoticed.”

In summation, a 3-4 OLB or 4-3 Will linebacker- where does Carroll Phillips fit in better? Comment below

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net and TheBank.News, partnered with FOX Sports Engage Network. and News Now. Banks, a former writer for the Washington Times and NBC Chicago.com, contributes to Chicago Tribune.comBoldWGN CLTV and KOZN

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