Mattingly's range, instincts, and current playing weight project nicely to either the Dog or Cat (outside) linebacker roles -- outside 'backer positions that work in congress but have grown disparate in their necessary skill sets.
His height, on the other hand…
At 6'5" 225 pounds with a purported motor to get after quarterbacks, Mattingly seems an ideal fit for defensive coordinator Bob Diaco's Cat LB position, or as an edge player when the Irish show a four-man front. And with at least 15, likely 27 months prior to his first collegiate contest, Mattingly has the time and the frame to add enough weight to hold the aforementioned down position.
As for a possible projection to the Dog (Drop) LB role -- there aren't many 6'5" humans that can guard modern slot receivers and running backs in open space. But Sean Carty, Mattingly's head coach at Mead high, said this of his prized pupil:
"I really feel that he's better in space than tied up in the middle," said Carty. "Some of the schools talked about putting him in a three-point stance, and Notre Dame talked about that as well. I think that will be ok if he can add some weight, but he's really, really good in space."
Mattingly's combination of height and athleticism could come in handy vs. a growing breed of athlete the Irish face, a group noted by star linebacker Manti Te'o last November.
"You can stop a balanced attack, but then a guy like (Andrew) Luck will throw it to one of his 6'8" tight ends," said the 6'1" Te'o of a less than favorable matchup prior to last year' s contest to the Cardinal. "That's a tough (cover)."
2013 Depth ChartThe following awaits Mattingly at each position he's likely to encounter during his Irish playing days. Though he's also a tight end at the high school level, we'll refrain from previewing the Big Skill athlete's potential on offense in today's space. Since its rare for a linebacker to enter school and immediately crack the two-deep, most of the discussion points reference the 2014 season, Mattingly's sophomore and/or redshirt freshman season.
Cat Linebackers: Prince Shembo (1), Ishaq Williams (2), Anthony Rabasa (3), Romeo Okwara (4/5).
Notes: Shembo will be the only member of the group gone in 2014 and the position group appears well-tiered as well as competitive from top to bottom, much more so than their counterparts at the Dog. Okwara could grow into a DE, but he's an intriguing Cat prospect.
Dog Linebackers: Danny Spond (1), Ben Councell (3), Jaylon Smith (4/5)
Notes: Spond will have graduated in '14 following a two-year run as either a part-time/full-time starter or role player backing up younger players. Smith, Mattingly's 2013 classmate, is the ideal fit for the Dog position and could start at some point in his true freshman season, though Councell could fight him off with a standout 2012.
Inside Linebackers: Dan Fox (1-GR), Carlo Calabrese (1-GR), Kendall Moore (2), Justin Utupo (2), Jarrett Grace (3). Current redshirt freshman Anthony Rabasa (above) worked at inside 'backer last fall.
Notes: I'll side with Mattingly's current coach Sean Carty and assume a 6'5" rangy athlete such as Mattingly shouldn't move inside, but the Mike and Will linebacker positions are not as impressive, on these pages if not the field, as is the future linebacking perimeter in South Bend. By '14, only Grace projects to a near-certain starting role from the group above (Fox and Calabrese will have moved on). There's room for at least one true inside 'backer in this recruiting cycle.
Defensive End: Stephon Tuitt (2), Chase Hounshell (2), Sheldon Day (3/4), Jarron Jones (3/4), Isaac Rochell (4/5), Jacob Matuska (4/5)
Notes: Two more are necessary in the current cycle as nothing is more important to a winning defense then quality depth up front. Mattingly's classmate Matuska could play any of four positions, including tight end. Should Mattingly move to DE, his meaningful scrimmage debut would likely wait until the 2015 season or at least midway through 2014 if he's a quick study.
Models to Follow: Niklas or Councell?Mattingly's initial slotting will likely depend upon his classmate Smith's as there's little sense in slotting two true freshmen to compete at one position with veteran talent already in place.
Mattingly could begin as a Cat that needs to add strength (standard for incoming players) or a Dog who'll work furiously at pass coverage, pass drops, and playing the ball in the air.
Cat seems the ideal starting point for his Irish career, as Mattingly could work behind a senior Ishaq Williams and in competition with Rabasa (who could return inside) and Okwara for meaningful playing time. Like Councell this fall, Mattingly's skill set appears ideal for special teams action as a redshirt freshman in 2014. There's an outside chance Mattingly can follow the career arc of 2011 true freshman Troy Niklas and force his way onto the field as a special teamer in Year One.
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