There’s only one thing Whop Philyor enjoys more than Burger King Whoppers.
So on the eve of Indiana’s first practice of the month, the sophomore slot receiver was giddy in anticipation of his favorite time of year. He cackled at the thought of working in the August heat, of popping on his pads, eluding would-be tacklers and scoring touchdowns with his friends.
“I’m so happy,” Philyor said at the start of camp. “I’m just happy to be playing football.”
Philyor’s enthusiasm was rooted in good reason. After missing the 2017 preseason due to injury, the excitable underclassman reported to camp eager to see what he lost.
Like Philyor, IU’s coaches are enthused at the thought of what a full month of practices can do for their electric playmaker’s upside this season.
“Schematically, he is better,” receiver coach Grant Heard said. “Whop missed all of fall camp last year. We threw him in toward the middle (of the season), and even though he made flashes, he was still learning our offense. Getting to go through a spring and now fall camp, he understands his role. He knows what he’s got to do and what he has to fix, because he knows there’s things he has to clean up. He’s doing an awesome job getting that done.”
Missing last year’s camp nearly had Philyor on track for a redshirt, but injuries elsewhere in IU’s receiving corps forced him into a heightened role by the middle of last season.
With his elite athleticism, Philyor proved he could handle the elevated stage. The Tampa, Fla., native made 33 receptions for 335 yards and three touchdowns, earning BTN.com Big Ten All-Freshman team recognition.
With extra seasoning this preseason, Philyor wonders what kind of value he’ll be able to squeeze out of his second college campaign.
“I’m learning the plays better,” Philyor said. “Last year, I didn’t really know the plays during the season, so I had to learn them as I went. It’s really helping that I get to learn the plays and be out here with my guys and have fun.”
Through the first week’s worth of practices, Philyor has been one of IU’s top performers.
And, depending on who you ask, he’s the fastest player on the roster.
When informed Friday that defensive assistant Brandon Shelby earlier in the week said freshman cornerback Jaylin Williams was faster, Philyor playfully snapped back.
“Stop playing me like that, Coach Shelby!” Philyor said.
Getting a taste of Big Ten football last season seems to have done the unthinkable for Philyor — making him even more confident.
It seems no one on IU’s roster is louder, prouder or more exuberant than the 5-foot-11 Philyor. With an extra uptick in self-assurance, Philyor has been one of the players that has most consistently caught the eye of his head coach this month.
“He just flashes,” Tom Allen said. “He can beat you deep. The thing that really jumps out to me is last year I thought he was really quick, but this year, his speed has gotten better. He can run away from people more than he could last year. He’s a legit threat.”
Albeit one who is wrestling with a struggle common among young players. Offensive coordinator Mike DeBord said this week that he wants to see Philyor complement his explosiveness with better consistency.
“He’s learned a lot from last year,” DeBord said. “(Monday) he had a drop or two, and he can’t have that. He’s such an explosive playmaker and when he gets the ball, he’s got to make sure he makes those catches.”
A fast, consistent and confident version of Philyor would, indeed, be a unique weapon for the Hoosiers.
More than a week into his first full college camp, Philyor is raring to show the Big Ten what it can expect from himself and the rest of IU’s receivers this season.
“We’re coming over the top, over everybody’s heads,” Philyor said. “So they better watch out.”