Jordan Matthews could have gone pro. The 6-3, 205 pounder is projected as a second/third rounder right now, but it is no secret to anyone around the Vanderbilt program that he would have shot up those rankings during the pre-draft process. Matthews after all has the all measureables and skills that scouts will love, along with putting up SEC First Team numbers in an offense which by today's pass happy standards is hard on receiver's stats.
Matthews though had other ideas and decided to stay at Vandy for his senior season. This decision is not one which hit the bottom line on ESPN or made SportsCenter, but it is a huge statement about how the Commodore players feel about the state of James Franklin's program and what they can achieve next year.
Matthews for one isn't shy about letting his reasons for coming back out in the open. "I know for a fact I have the guys around me that can take this school to an SEC championship next year," Matthews said Sunday. "That is the main reason why I'm staying, and I'm going to devote all my time to making sure Vanderbilt is on the podium in Georgia by season's end next year."
Just think about that for a moment. A Vandy player who could by all rights be playing on Sunday's next year is instead talking about the Commodores chances of winning an SEC Title. Never in the history of Vanderbilt football has something like been said, let alone been foreseen as even a remote possibility by those in attendance at a press conference. On Sunday, however, no one was joking. Matthews, Franklin, and the rest believe within themselves that Vandy is at that level and that they can take the program to even greater heights in 2013.
Looking at the information available it is not that hard to see where they are coming from. The Commodores finished 9-4 this year with a convincing victory over a future first round NFL draft pick. The 'Dores were ranked 20th in the final coaches poll (23rd in the AP) and the four teams they lost too were all ranked higher than that. In other words the team took no bad losses.
Looking at the rivals there are question marks about all the SEC East big boys next year. Florida has no passing offense and looked lost defensively against Louisville. South Carolina returns all world end Jadeveon Clowney, but they lose seven defensive starters. Georgia also loses a ton of defense and have a schedule which is just murderous through the first four games.
Obviously with Vanderbilt's history there will be doubters and naysayers. Slowly, however, Franklin is changing that perception. Whether THIS Commodore team goes on to play at anything like the level of an SEC Title caliber team us yet to be seen, but with Franklin on the case they may well be sooner rather than later.
Jordan Matthews wants to win the SEC
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