National Signing Day 2019: Four-star CB Clark Phillips surprisingly flips from Ohio State to Utah

Even the teams atop the recruiting rankings suffer losses in recruiting battles. Ohio State, which is currently ranked at No. 3 in 247Sports’ composite rankings for 2020, saw one of their top recruits bolt on Thursday. Four-star cornerback Clark Phillips committed to Ohio State back in June, but when he signed his NLI on Thursday, it wasn’t with Ohio State. He instead chose Utah.

It’s a major score for the Utes, as Phillips immediately becomes the highest-rated recruit the program has had in the modern recruiting rankings era. Phillips is from La Habra, California, and is seen as a future NFL player. Here’s the scouting report from 247Sports’ Greg Biggins.

Has a strong build and plays with a bulldog mentality. Doesn’t have great length but makes up for it with a physical style of play and advanced technique. More quick than fast but has improved his long speed over the last year and is better able to turn and run with the fastest receivers. His improved burst and explosiveness shows up on the offensive side of the ball at receiver where he showed his ability to out run a defense and be dynamic after the catch. Has excellent ball skills and really improved in his ability to make a play on the ball without interfering. An extremely competitive player who loves the challenge of taking on another team’s best receiver. Is physical in the run game and does a nice job getting off blocks and making a tackle. Scrappy type of play looks conducive to playing as a nickel or slot corner in college but is versatile enough to line up anywhere in the secondary. Projects as an impact, upper-tier Power 5 starter and future high-round NFL draft pick.

So why would Phillips flip from Ohio State to Utah this late in the game? It’s a result of the coaching carousel. Jeff Hafley had been Ohio State’s defensive coordinator and will coach the Buckeyes defense in the College Football Playoff, but he’ll then leave to take over as the head coach at Boston College. Hafley is seen as one of the best defensive backs coaches in the country, and that was a significant appeal for Phillips when choosing Ohio State. With Hafley gone, Columbus no longer holds the same appeal to him.

It’s bad news for an Ohio State team that could be losing its entire secondary to graduation and the NFL Draft after this season. Of course, it’s also great news for Utah, which wasn’t shy about expressing its feelings about Phillips’ decision on Twitter afterward.

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