In all things, trust the process.
Ellisville native Scott Phillips had dreamed of playing football at Ole Miss growing up. Wednesday, on college football’s first-ever early signing period, Phillips watched his dream come a step closer. The former South Jones running back, who spent the last two seasons at the JUCO level, signed and faxed his LOI (Letter of Intent) to Ole Miss and will join the Rebels in January.
“It’s always been a dream of mine to play for Ole Miss,” said Phillips inside South Jones’ media center. “When they came calling, there was no question as to where I was going to go.”
The nation’s No. 1 JUCO running back, per the 247Sports Composite, was one of 15 players to sign with Ole Miss on Wednesday.
“I’m glad he is staying in-state,” said Phillip’s former high school head coach Cory Reynolds. “I knew this day would happen; it was just a matter of which one. Mississippi needs good kids like him to stay in-state.”
Under-recruited his senior year at South Jones – largely in part to an injury his junior year that kept him sidelined for the majority of the season – Phillips signed with JCJC football in 2016 under its new head coach Steve Buckley.
“In his junior year at South Jones, Phillips only had 108 carries for 571 yards,” said Reynolds. “He had a groin injury and stayed nicked up. He hit the weight room [in the offseason] and worked hard to get back. During his senior year, he ran for nearly 2,000 yards, but the [big] offers didn’t come in. There were a couple of small schools that offered him late, but I told him to trust the process.
“Steve Buckley, who I had worked with at Petal, got hired at Jones, and he’s worked with running backs at Southern Miss and LSU, so he knew how special Scott was. Scott has had two great seasons at JCJC.”
“I felt under-rated in the recruiting process [my senior year at South Jones],” Phillips said. “I’m thankful to God that JCJC gave me an opportunity. I went there and did what I had to do. It was at Jones that I got my rankings up.”
At Jones, Phillips rushed for 1,070 yards on 187 carries and 13 touchdowns last season. He averaged 107 yards per game and 5.7 yards per carry.
Recruited to Ole Miss under then head coach Hugh Freeze, Phillips maintained his commitment to the university, even after Freeze’s unexpected resignation prior to the 2017 season. He even remained committed to the Rebels after the NCAA’s Committee of Infractions handed down the university’s punishment in regard to its five-year investigation into the program’s recruiting violations, which included an extra year bowl ban (2018) and scholarship reductions through 2018-2019, as detailed in the public report (self imposed by the university).
“I’ve been a fan of Ole Miss for a long time,” said Phillip. “It would have been nice to play under Hugh Freeze, but unfortunately that will not be the case. Coach Luke earned the job, and I’ve had a great time getting to know him. I think he is a genuine coach, and I’m ready to play for him.”
Phillips will be an immediate impact player for the Rebels. He’ll help fill the void left by Jordan Wilkins, who finished his senior campaign over the 1,000-yard mark at running back. Wilkins became the first running back at Ole Miss to rush over the mark since 2009.
“Ole Miss is still going through its sanctions, so its good for Phillips to get in and help them get through that,” said Reynolds. “Coach Luke is going to enjoy coaching him.”
Phillips received offers and interest from other major D1 schools, including Oklahoma State, UConn, TCU and Miami. Miami offered Phillips a scholarship after his first year at Jones. Phillips declined and held out for an offered to play at Ole Miss. The offer eventually came, and Phillips is happy.
“Ole Miss wants me to come in and be their guy,” Phillips added. “I know, and they know, it doesn’t come easy. I have to come and put in the work, but I am looking forward to it.”