Impact Report: Joe Mathis

It's been a long time coming for Joe Mathis, but for the 6-foot-4, 255-pound athlete from Upland, Calif., the recruiting process ended up coming full circle. Mathis, a cousin of former Washington basketball star Terrence Ross, committed to the Huskies in October of 2011 when he was verbally offered by UW - citing his relationship with Ross and fondness for a school he followed as a little kid.

By Signing Day 2012, however, Mathis was rolling in new offers. By the time he made his final decision Saturday at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, he could have gone pretty much anywhere he wanted as a top-15 ranked defensive end nationally by

With hats from Alabama, USC, UCLA and Washington on the table, Mathis first lingered over the USC hat before quickly picking up the one in purple and gold. "First of all I'd like to thank all the colleges for recruiting me, it's an amazing process," Mathis said. "But I'll be going for the next four years to the University of Washington. It's family there. I get along with all the players and the coaches."

And with that 30-second declaration, Mathis finished the recruiting process where he started - with the Huskies. And they couldn't be happier.

First, Mathis is the kind of impact defensive player that could come in and start as a freshman. At 6-foot-4 and 255 pounds, NBC broadcaster Lewis Johnson called Mathis the 'meanest and toughest defensive lineman in this class so far this year' - and he's not necessarily wrong. Watching his senior film, Mathis uses his physicality and tenacity to really get after opposing offenses. He's built like a player that could grow into an interior defensive lineman, but could play anywhere along the defensive line or even middle linebacker. He runs very, very well for a player his size and plays the game with a real nose for the ball. He'll most likely start out as a defensive end, but given the flexibility of Justin Wilcox's fronts it's conceivable Mathis could play end, 3-technique or even the nose during different down-and-distance situations. We saw that with Andrew Hudson last year and Mathis is a bigger, more athletic version of Andrew Hudson. If he can match Hudson's dogged attitude when it comes to getting after the ball-carrier, Mathis' potential is through the roof.

On top of that, Mathis has something in common with another All-American who is verbally committed to Washington - jumbo athlete Elijah Qualls - they can both do damage on offense as well as defense. Mathis, like Qualls, is simply a punishing player, whether delivering hits as a fullback or taking on offensive linemen on defense. It wouldn't shock me at all to see a power package with a combination of players like Mathis, Qualls and Pio Vatuvei…how is that for a 'full house' backfield?

What does Mathis' commitment to Washington mean for their defensive line recruiting? Most likely it means the Huskies are done with that particular position group. Washington currently has 21 public verbal commitments, and six of those are slated to start out along the d-line: Mathis, Qualls, Daeshon Hall, Marcus Farria, Andrew Basham, and Jaimie Bryant. But with a month to go to Signing Day there's room to move here. Bryant may start out on defense but with his size and athleticism and a need for quality big men along the offensive line he could be tried there as well. Basham's expected to sign but all along he's been a potential liability in terms of making it into school, so his status will be touch-and-go up to the point where he's expected to enroll for the summer LEAP program. The same can be also be said for Farria.

That means players like Eddie Vanderdoes, Deonte Reynolds, Marcus Hardison, Maurice Swain and Fred Melifonwu are still definitely in play as UW winds down toward Signing Day, but I don't expect the Huskies to go above their current number of defensive line commitments. That means if players on this list do end up signing with the Huskies, there will have to be attrition from the group already committed. The only player I would say is the exception to that is Vanderdoes; he has been Tosh Lupoi's top target from Day One and there's no doubt in my mind the UW staff would find room for the 6-foot-3, 300-pound defensive tackle in any scenario.

One thing became clear over the course of Mathis' recruitment; when Lupoi sets his sights on a player he truly covets, he rarely comes up empty. Even though Mathis initially committed to Washington before the first-year defensive line coach came to Montlake, he was being pulled in all sorts of different directions. Alabama offered at the end of March. Michigan came calling, then Nebraska. A kid in a candy store, Mathis' attention was being pulled in six different directions like taffy. But when he was able to visit Washington officially and unofficially, Lupoi and the rest of the UW staff and players made the most of their opportunities to sell the UW experience. While other schools came and went as passing fancies or flavors of the month, Washington was the one constant in his recruitment, and Lupoi was front and center - having recruited Mathis since his days at California.

What that means for the Huskies going forward is anybody's guess. But with four weeks to Signing Day, the UW staff are going to be tough to reckon with as they put a cap on the 2013 recruiting class. With the public commitment of Mathis Saturday and John Ross the night before at the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl, UW is riding a nice wave of recruiting momentum right now, and it would be folly to bet against them as they push toward February 6.
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