An offensive lineman with the name "Matthews" on the back of the jersey has a lot to live up to, but through his first two seasons of college football Jake Matthews has been as good as expected. He broke into the starting lineup at right tackle as a freshman. Early in the 2010 season, the Aggies were struggling to protect their quarterback. Matthews was put into the lineup, along with quarterback Ryan Tannehill, and the sacks per game went down dramatically.
Matthews produced an excellent sophomore season in 2011 and was a reliable pass protector for Tannehill. Matthews did a good job of opening up holes in the ground game for running backs Christian Michael and Cyrus Gray. When taking on Texas and its two standout defensive ends, Jackson Jeffcoat and Alex Okafor, Matthews played well. He gave up some pressures, but, overall, he won his blocks in the ground game and in pass-protection.
The Aggies only allowed a total of nine sacks last year and averaged 490.2 yards of total offense per game. To break that down, the team averaged 291 passing yards, 199 yards rushing and 39.1 points per game.
2012 Season Outlook:
The Aggies are moving to the SEC, so they will face a new schedule of defenses. Matthews figures to take on a tougher slate of pass-rushers in 2012. He will face challenging defenses when Texas A&M plays LSU, Auburn, Alabama and Florida. Those battles will have a big impact on Matthews' draft status.
Along with a tougher schedule, the Aggies have lost a lot talent from their 2011 team. Tannehill is gone, along with some other quality skill-position players on offense. While breaking in a new quarterback in a tough defensive conference, Texas A&M may have to keep the ball on the ground more. Matthews should have plenty of opportunities to show off his run-blocking skills. Michael is healthy, so Matthews has a talented running back to work with.
There is a lot to like about Matthews, and he is still developing. The first things that jump out about Matthews are his quickness and athleticism. Unlike many right tackles, Matthews has light feet and a nice burst out of his stance. This allows him to fire into run blocks on his lineman or to the second level of the defense. It also helps tackle to shuffle and mirror pass-rushers before they gain leverage around the edge.
Watching Matthews, it is clear that he is a natural football player who has great instincts and intelligence. Matthews has a lot of success with cut blocks and is quick to use one when he sees an opening to take a linemen out of the play by diving at the legs. There are numerous plays where Matthews takes out two defensive linemen in a pile of bodies with a cut block. NFL teams that run a zone-blocking system that favors athleticism and mobility will be salivating at the idea of Matthews on their offensive line.
The junior has a few areas to improve. One, it would be ideal if he could gain 15-20 pounds of muscle to help push defensive linemen around. That will also help him to sustain blocks. Against good defensive linemen, Matthews can be feast or famine as far as sustaining his blocks. Adding some more upper body strength would help him.
There is no doubt that Matthew has some great bloodlines. He is the son of Bruce Matthews, one of the best offensive linemen in NFL history and a Hall of Famer. He made a whopping 14 Pro Bowls for the Houston Oilers and Tennessee Titans. Bruce Matthews is currently the Titans' offensive line coach. With that kind of upbringing, Jake Matthews looks like a very safe pick for the NFL. He fits any offensive system and should be a reliable starter for a long time.
2013 Draft Expectations:
Matthews looks like a future first-round pick right now. He has a lot going for him with a stack of good tape, athletic ability and superb bloodlines. If Matthews performs well against the SEC's elite pass-rushers, he should lock down a first-round grade.