Cali OL weighing walk-on options

Three-star offensive guard Matthew Gutwald could have taken the best scholarship available. Instead, he’s pursuing the best education with Notre Dame and Stanford the finalists for preferred walk-on spots.

About this time last year Matthew Gutwald realized he could play college football.

Putting together a junior season highlight video helped the offensive lineman from Dublin, Calif., get noticed by Ivy League schools and programs around home. But the eventual flow of scholarship offers didn’t change Gutwald’s outlook.

Gutwald wanted to pursue an elite education, period. That’s the path that has him choosing between preferred walk-on spots at Notre Dame and Stanford. Other options have faded away.

“I didn’t expect to play football in college until last year,” Gutwald said. “I figured that I should pick that best academic institution because football isn’t gonna last forever. Both of those schools play some pretty good football.”

Air Force, Arizona, Oregon, Oregon State, San Jose State and Washington State are some of the programs that offered scholarships. Ivy League programs Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Penn, Princeton and Yale also put roster spots on the table.

Notre Dame has cranked up its interest in recent months with Gutwald as a potential preferred walk-on candidate.

Gutwald visited campus for the season opener against Texas. Head coach Brian Kelly and offensive coordinator Mike Sanford followed up by visiting the 6-foot-4, 290-pound prospect at Dublin High School earlier this week.

Sanford plans to come back next week as well.

“It was a crazy experience,” Gutwald said. “Never in my wildest dreams did I think the head coach at Notre Dame and his offensive coordinator would come by my school. I’ve been a Notre Dame fan ever since I was born. I’ve been watching coach Kelly on the TV for six years and watching them every Saturday during the fall. I never imagined him coming just to see me. It was a memorable experience.”

Kelly and Sanford talked about the opportunities that could await in South Bend. They want Gutwald to compete for a scholarship offer down the line after supplementing an offensive line class that already includes Tommy Kraemer, Liam Eichenberg and Parker Boudreaux.

“They talked about how they really want to take one more offensive lineman in this class but they don’t have the scholarships available for that,” Gutwald said. “They want to take a lot of defensive backs in this class. We talked about the possibility of coming in as a preferred walk-on and competing for a scholarship once I get there.

“That’s pretty much it. I got to talk to coach Kelly about the season and their season next year, all that good stuff. We talked about the brotherhood.”

Gutwald plans to take that into consideration over the next several weeks as he pushes toward a final decision.

Stanford is expected to come by school after the Pac 12 title game against USC this weekend, which Gutwald plans to attend. He last visited Palo Alto for the regular season finale against Notre Dame, a last-second Cardinal victory.

Gutwald does plan to decide either on or before National Signing Day so he can go through the ceremony like other future college athletes, even if there’s no scholarship agreement to sign.

“I’m gonna have to talk to my family,” Gutwald said. “I’ll talk to the coaching staffs a little bit more. It’s gonna be crazy the next couple months. There was a coach that came by that said there are gonna be like 30 coaching vacancies when all this is over. I wanna make sure that the assistants, people that are recruiting me are gonna stick. I think I’ll have a pretty good idea of that after the bowl games.

“I’ve already started talking to my family about stuff, writing it down on a piece of paper. I’ll talk to my coaches. Kinda plan it out and make the final call from there.”


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