Bearcats Position Preview: Returning Running Backs

Published 6:00 am Wednesday, July 19, 2023

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Senior Bearcat running backs Kennan Phillips, Javon Cox and Travious Freeman enter their sixth season together as teammates. The trio has been playing since 7th grade. 

“We’ve been together since middle school,” Phillips said. “We know a lot about each other and what we can and can’t do. It really ain’t too much we can’t do.”

Running backs coach, Larry Crosby said the group is diverse and well-rounded. Having three reliable, experienced backs gives Crosby built-in depth and allows him to run schemes with all three rushers.   

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“We have a scheme called raven where we’ve got two A-backs in there,” Crosby said. “Those two A-backs will consist of Phillips, Cox and Freeman. All three of them can play it.”

Crosby said the group’s running style balances finesse and physicality. Cox has a running back for any occasion.   

“Especially with Phillips, he’s a combination back that can do both,” Crosby said, “Freeman, we call him our bruiser, and Cox our finesse guy.”

Freeman suffered an injury last year that limited his playtime. Crosby is excited to see what he will do this season. Phillips rushed for more than 1,000 yards last year, and Crosby looks for him to do it again. Phillips said he expects a successful season.

“Winning a lot of football games and achieving the goal we’ve been trying to achieve since freshman year, which is the state championship,” Phillips said about what he is looking forward to this season. 

Phillips will have eyes on him this season. The 3-star back received more than 10 offers last season, and he hopes to see more offers come this season. 

He recently took an official visit to James Madison University (JMU). Phillips toured the campus, got to meet running backs on the team and went ax-throwing. After spending time with the JMU backs, Phillips said the group felt tight-knit.

“They treat each other like family,” Phillips said. “They made me feel as if I was already on the team, building a relationship with me.”

Phillips said he got invited in March and had worked with JMU running backs coach John Miller to find the best time to come out. ​​Tandria Phillips, his mother, said she’s proud of the work her son has put in.

“It’s exciting to watch his hard work pay off,” His mother said. “I’m not just saying this ‘cause I’m his mom, maybe a little, but he’s one of the hardest workers on the team.”

Phillips said JMU’s interest in him built confidence in his game. 

“I kind of want to go on more visits,“ Phillips said. “It shows that schools out there like me and want me to come.”

The running back said he’s yet to make a decision but enjoyed his time at the University. He hopes to hear from South Carolina, Georgia Tech and Florida this season. 


Full offer list

Appalachian State University

Boston College

Bryant University

Florida Atlantic University

Georgia Southern University

Georgia State University

James Madison University

Middle Tennessee State University

NC State

Troy University

Tulane University

University of Alabama at Birmingham 

Vanderbilt University