But on the sixth play from scrimmage in Virginia’s season opener Sept. 3 against William & Mary – a 20-yard run by redshirt freshman tailback Kevin Parks that concluded with a fumble recovered by the Cavaliers – Phillips suffered a high-ankle sprain and a torn ankle ligament that forced him to miss the following three games.
Phillips, a fourth-year junior, returned to start Virginia’s 21-20 overtime win Oct. 1 over Idaho, but he has yet to tally a reception this season. Last year, Phillips recorded 18 receptions for 155 yards and three touchdowns.
“It’s been a little frustrating coming off a season last year where I felt like I was starting to play well and get really comfortable with the offense,” Phillips said Wednesday. “And then this year to get hurt on the sixth play of the year, it was tough. Having to stay positive was a struggle at times because I wanted to be on the field so much.”
Phillips said initially team doctors thought his injury was “a lot worse” that it turned out to be. An MRI exam allayed those concerns, and it turned out that Phillips simply needed a lengthy period of rest.
He said he wears an ankle brace that limits his mobility in a certain direction and that the ankle is taped in a specific way for stabilization purposes, but he feels close enough to full health that he does not expect the injury to limit him at all Saturday against No. 12 Georgia Tech.
“I really look forward to playing a full game this weekend,” Phillips said.
Junior Paul Freedman and redshirt sophomore Jeremiah Mathis took on larger roles in Phillips’s absence. Freedman started the three games Phillips missed and has recorded four catches for 42 yards. Mathis has tallied three receptions for eight yards and a touchdown.