Tray Matthews comes to UGA ready to start

semerson@macon.comFebruary 8, 2013 

ATHENS - When Georgia's 13 early enrollees attended their first team meeting this semester, each was asked to stand up and say their hometown.

"I said my name, and where I was from, and you hear Zander (Ogletree) in the background: 'Yeah we here! Newnan, we here!'" Matthews said, smiling. "Newman produces great athletes."

Alec Ogletree, who is Zander's twin brother, is the most recent, and as he departs the program Matthews steps in. The safety prospect is one of Georgia's top-rated recruits this year, and perhaps the highest-ranked one on defense. Considering the state of the defense, that makes Matthews a candidate to have the most immediate impact.

Georgia loses all but three starters (Garrison Smith, Damian Swann and Amarlo Herrera) and both safeties graduated.

So Matthews admits it would be a bit of a disappointment not to be starting against Clemson in the opener.

"Because I feel like I worked too hard not to start," he said. "But my Dad used to always tell me the cream of the crop always rises to the top. He says as long as the coaches give me a fair shot at any position, I'm gonna come out with a good outcome."

Matthews committed to Georgia early last year then worked to enroll for the spring semester. A consensus four-star recruit, the 6-foot-1, 194-pound Matthews was picked to play in the Army All-American Bowl. (In fact he was wearing a sweatsuit from that game on Friday afternoon.)

Matthews has known the Ogletree brothers for a long time. He spoke to Alec a week ago. But Matthews doesn't expect to follow the career trajectory of Alec Ogletree, who played safety as a freshman then moved to inside linebacker.

"I'm gonna keep my speed. I think Tree got too big. But they say with my frame I can get very big," Matthews said, adding that he's working with the conditioning and nutrition staff to "keep lean muscle. Because they say my frame is big for a safety. But I ran a 4.41 (40-yard dash time). So I can move very well. I just love that position. And they're lacking depth at the safety position."

Matthews said he was a free safety, in the Bacarri Rambo mold.

"But I wanna hit a lot too," Matthews said, with a smile. "I'm gonna try to come down full-speed when the running backs have the ball."

Georgia head coach Mark Richt has begun warning the incoming freshman (and the fans) to be careful about installing the recruits as projected starters. Richt used his signing day press conference to issue a reminder about the "in between" players still around: Those returning players who weren't starters last year. At the safety spot, Corey Moore, Connor Norman, Marc Deas and Josh Harvey-Clemons (if he stays at safety) will be competing for time as well.

Matthews' attitude about it is a combination of respect and bravado.

"I don't want the players here to feel a type of weird towards me," he said. "I want them to know that I'm grinding just as hard as they are. I'm looking forward, and going towards the same goal as they are. They better watch me come because I'm coming hard."

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