Yousef Baig-online.jpg

It’s remarkable how much you can learn about someone without actually getting to speak to them.

This has been the case with midyear safety Tray Matthews.

He was one of the 13 signees from the 2013 recruiting class that enrolled in January, and has been unavailable to the media since spring practices began, but that’s neither here nor there.

Let’s first start with his build and his résumé. He’s listed at 6-foot, 194 pounds and was regarded as a four-star prospect by all major recruiting services. Rivals.com ranked him as the No. 6 prospect in Georgia, No. 7 safety in the country and No. 72 overall.

In his three years on the varsity team at Newnan High School, Matthews totaled 195 tackles, had two tackles for loss, forced two fumbles as well as recovered two. He snagged eight interceptions and even blocked two field goals. During his senior year he would line up on offense from time to time, and tallied 670 all-purpose yards while finding the end zone nine times.

So basically the kid has game wherever he plays.

Once spring practices began, he’s been on the tip of every member of the football team’s tongue, and when someone talks about Matthews, you notice a change in their tone like they had just been asked a million dollar question that they knew the answer to.

Let’s start with defensive coordinator Todd Grantham.

“Tray’s a very athletic guy,” he said. “To me, the biggest thing is you’ve got to be able to do is tackle in space, and he’s shown that ability. He’s athletic, he’s a hungry kid that wants to learn and I like his demeanor. We’ll keep coaching him hard and get him better.”

After the Bulldogs’ first scrimmage of the spring, inside linebacker Ramik Wilson couldn’t stop laughing while talking about the freshman.

“He’s out there going crazy,” Wilson said. “He’s fearless. He’ll hit anybody, and he’ll deliver a nice hit to you. He plays hard, and he’s trying to help set the tone.”

You’ve got a rising junior talking about an early enrollee “setting the tone” like he’s been in the system for years.

But it doesn’t stop there. The guys on the offense are raving about him as well because they’re the ones on the receiving end of these hits.

“The more of the defense he learns, the more plays that he’s making — he’s already made a ton,” wide receiver Chris Conley said. “He’s a very hard-nosed football player, not afraid to stick his face in there. He’s been doing extremely well, and the coaches have noticed. They’re letting him make more plays, giving him opportunities and I only expect him to get better.”

Those opportunities that Conley mentioned have been the first-team reps he’s gotten in all three of the scrimmages this spring. He’s tallied 10 tackles from the safety spot with one pass deflection.

Quarterback Aaron Murray wasn’t even asked about Matthews, but still felt the need to shower him with some pretty serious compliments during the media day prior to the G-Day game.

“A lot of people keep talking about — and which they should — is Tray Matthews. He’s a ball hawk,” he said. “I’ve never seen anyone with that kind of closing speed. He’s a very, very talented kid and seems to know — just by watching film — he seems to know what he’s doing and he seems confident.”

After that, he made a comment that I thought was kind of shocking given how long Murray has played football.

“He’s had some hits I’ve never seen before in my life these past couple of scrimmages,” Murray said. “I mean he’s laid the wood. I thought he killed [Justin] Scott-Wesley the other day, I really thought he was dead.”

To lay a hit so hard that people thought it was murder is a serious statement.

If that doesn’t get Georgia fans excited about its newest star in the secondary, I don’t know what will.

—Yousef Baig is a journalism major from Kennesaw

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