National Signing Day: Wonder star Phillips could make history at Charlotte
KANNAPOLIS — It’s out with the old and in with the new for Kalif Phillips.
This fall Phillips will go from A.L. Brown, one of the most storied prep programs in the state, to Charlotte, who literally has no history coming into its first year having football.
The program Phillips officially signed with Wednesday will hold its first game Aug. 31 against Campbell. Phillips could be the first 49er to ever take a handoff in that game at McColl–Richardson Field.
“It’s part of history,” said the explosive running back. “Me being on the first team at Charlotte feels good to say. I want to be able to say I was on the first team at Charlotte.”
No one’s forgetting his days at Brown anytime soon. His Nintendo-like numbers included an all-everything senior season as Phillips ran for 1,755 yards in 2012 and scored 30 touchdowns to lead the team in scoring despite missing two games due to a toe injury. Phillips surpassed a 1,589-yard effort in 2011.
Phillips could start off the bat after proving himself as a weapon all over the field. The 6-foot, 193-pound Shrine Bowl selection, dazzled fans running, catching and a returning kicks. He’s dynamic enough to be an impact player quickly for Charlotte, who will compete as an FCS independent before joining Confernce USA in 2015. Coach Brad Lambert, the former Wake Forest defensive coordinator, had 17 players sign Wednesday. Phillips verbally committed in December.
“Barring injury, he gets an opportunity and he gets a chance to set records that could stay for a long time,” Brown coach Mike Newsome said. “If you get someone that starts 10, 12 games from their freshman year to their senior year, that’s a lot of yardage that can be gained.”
Phillips played with 49er recruits Jordan Starnes (South Stanly), Jachin Watkins and Jamar Winston in the Shrine Bowl.
“Not a lot of freshman get a chance to be the starting running back,” Newsome said. “He’ll have that opportunity.”
Phillips runs a 4.39 40-yard dash and was offered by Appalachian State, Elon and Western Carolina. At Brown, he also was a threat on the return team as well as in the passing game, catching 20 balls for 413 yards last year. Newsome thinks Charlotte offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen can utilize Phillips similarly. Mullen was previously the offensive coordinator at West Virginia.
“They use their running backs in multiple positions,” Newsome said. “They line them up in a running back, in an empty set in the slot and make them a receiver. I think Kalif can do all those things.”
The Wonders leaned on Phillips offensively throughout last year. In the second round of the playoffs, they fell over on top of him. A seven-touchdown night at Hickory Ridge was the signature game of a memorable senior year. The Wonders needed every bit of his 328 yards rushing on 30 carries in a 69-55 win. Phillips was responsible for 44 of his team’s points. After giving up a school-record 63 points in a loss to the Ragin’ Bulls in their regular season meeting, Brown nearly hit 70 thanks to their stud back.
“I’ll never forget that,” Phillips said. “Coaches kept feeding me the ball. They trusted me to get the ball and score.”
•NOTE: Brown had four other players sign Wednesday. ... Kicker and SPC Special Teams Player of the Year Erik Amaya signed with Johnson C. Smith as did running back J.P. Lott, who averaged 10.2 yards a carry last year. ... 6-foot-7, 260-pound offensive lineman Brandon Parker signed with N.C. A&T. ... Receiver Dante Pinkston will play at Averett.