Auburn, Ala.--Even with reinforcements from the 2015 signee class and an all-star graduate transfer who could help, the Auburn football Tigers need to keep their front-line safeties as healthy as possible.
The return of projected starter Tray Matthews to full speed status at Tuesday’s practice is a big deal for Gus Malzahn’s football team with less than two weeks before the Tigers open the season vs. Louisville on Sept. 5th at the Georgia Dome.
Matthews missed both of the team’s major preseason scrimmages while recuperating from a hamstring problem, an injury that can linger for a substantial portion of a football season if a player tries to come back too soon and reinjures it.
“It was eating me alive, man,” he said when asked about missing preseason practices. “I was eating every day with my boys and then I was in a depressing moment for a minute, but I would rather be out a little bit for this time than September 5th. That’s what kept me up.”
Asked if he is concerned about the problem continuing to nag him this season, the redshirt sophomore transfer who played two seasons ago at Georgia said, “Just a little bit, but we have a good training staff down here and they have been working with me.
“I have actually been doing very well,” Matthews added. “It was just getting a little tight here and there.
Coach T-Rob (secondary coach Travaris Robinson) was like, ‘Oh no, we can’t have those problems,’ so he sat me out for a little bit just so I can be ready.”
Asked about his new position coach, Matthews said, “T-Rob, that’s a character right there man. He is always outgoing, screaming and yelling. He wants everything perfect.
“The thing with T-Rob is he can actually show us what he wants us to do,” Matthews pointed out. “He can show us backpedaling, our technique. That’s the one he brings to the table for us that I love.”
Tray Matthews is showng making an interception during the A-Day Game in April.
Another transfer defensive back who is expected to make his Auburn debut vs. Louisville is Blake Countess, who can play cornerback, nickel and safety. He is a former All-Big 10 selection who joined the AU team this summer.
Asked about getting Matthews back at full speed in practice the former Michigan Wolverine said, “He’s just a guy that is flying around. You can tell he definitely loves contact and he loves football. That’s one thing I’ve seen from Tray.”
Matthews developed a reputation for being a big hitter when he was at Georgia and that has not changed, especially with a new defensive coordinator, Will Muschamp, who actively encourages that style of play.
“Coach Muschamp emphasizes on physicality and we’re bringing that to the table more and more every day,” Matthews said.
“You know, now that I’m back, I’m trying to bring it every day as well. I couldn’t really bring it these couple days, but now that I’m back, I’m going to be the one that’s bringing the boom every practice and every game.”