Chemistry Matters

Time after time in the offseason, different players have talked about the togetherness on the current team, something that most say was missing last year. Sophomore Safety Brishen Mathews echoed those sentiments recently.

When most players are asked "how is your offseason going?" they launch into how they have gotten bigger, stronger or faster.

That is not the case with sophomore Safety Brishen Mathews, the son of a college coach who always talks team first.

"It's been great. We have bonded and overcome some brotherly adversity. Everything is good. We are just ready to put the pads on," Mathews said. "We are closer, I think. Last year, everyone was riding high on two Cotton Bowl wins and, I mean, you have to ride the bucking horse to get where you want to go.

"I don't think we got on the grind like we should have. That's what we have been doing - grinding. We got fat and happy last year. So far this year, we have trimmed up and are back to being lean and mean right now."

Besides the embarrassment of going 4-8 in 2010, Mathews feels the constant togetherness since then has created the glue the team is now experiencing.

"We are around each other all the time now. We do a lot of things together that doesn't involve just football. We have bonded," he said. "Last year, the older guys were close and the younger guys were close, but it didn't seem interconnected like it is now.

"Now, you see a senior with a freshman, or a senior with a sophomore or a junior with a freshman. We are more together across the board."

While Mathews' first focus is on team, he had some things he wanted to accomplish in the offseason as well.

"Always the priority is to get faster and stronger. Those are must-dos. I think I have accomplished that. I have put on five pounds and I am two-tenths faster on my 40. I am at 205 pounds right now and that's a good, solid weight for me," he continued. "But more importantly, I'm just trying to do anything I can do to help the team win - whatever it is."

From a mental standpoint, the different coverages gave Mathews, who has always been known for his aggressive run support, the most problems in his true freshman year.

Brishen Mathews, other Rebs, converge on Bama's Mark Ingram
Matthew Sharpe
"Everyone does things differently. There are a thousand ways to do things and I just had to get reps and learn the way things are done here," he explained. "In the offseason, I have been able to get a lot of reps, so things are more comfortable for me in coverage now."

Mathews is learning under a different mentor now with the combination of Keith Burns and Chris Vaughn handling the secondary chores.

"Coach Burns has made a huge difference. He really fired me up. He told me it's not all about skill - it's about wanting it and working for it," Mathews added. "He said if you work, and want it, it's going to happen and there is no other option.

"I took that to heart. I want it and I have worked. It's going to happen. Coach Burns is a very high-energy guy. He's a different breed, in a good way. He understands where we are coming from and draws the best out of you."

Mathews' expectations for the secondary are high.

"We should be at the top, no matter who wins the different jobs," he said matter-of-factly. "I trust all the guys who are working for playing time. Everyone knows their role and everyone knows what they have to do."

Mathews is also excited about the youngsters who have been here all summer who are penciled in to be secondary players.

"I like Denzel (Nkemdiche) a lot. I think he has it all and he's real physical. I think he can play right away. Cody Prewitt is fast and has great ball skills," noted Brishen. "Chief (Brown) wasn't able to do a lot on the field early this summer because of an injury, but he's real good in the weight room and he should be ready for the season."

The youth in the front seven on defense is not a cause for concern for Mathews either, despite the fact the Rebs could be fielding two redshirt freshmen DTs, a relatively new MLB and possibly a true freshman OLB.

"That will be a factor, no doubt, because experience is important, but I have faith in those guys too. Carlton Martin, for instance, has not played, but he may be the strongest guy on the team. He's a monster in the weight room," he said. "We have other guys like that too - guys who have not played much who are ready. They just have to get in there and play like I know they are capable of playing."

Overall, like all the players we've been able to interview this summer, Mathews is anxious to run this new bond up the flagpole and see what it brings.

"I want to put on the pads. I want to get started. I think we all do," he closed.

He'll get his wish in a little over two weeks.

Then, the bond will be tested.

OM Spirit Top Stories