2013 summary: Matthews played in eight games for the Bulldogs, starting six at free safety, but dealt with injuries all season and missed the Taxslayer.com Gator Bowl loss to Nebraska with a hamstring injury. Matthews finished his first season with 36 tackles, including 23 solo stops and 1.5 tackles for loss. He also had one interception, broke up four passes and forced a fumble.
Georgia safety Tray Matthews was slowed by injuries at freshman, but flashed big potential.
The skinny: From the day Matthews first arrived on campus last spring, everyone expected him to be a major contributor. He was named the team's most improved defender coming out of spring practice and pretty much had the free safety spot locked up. But nagging injuries and inconsistency plagued him during his freshman season. The hope is that with time to rest and a year of experience under his belt, Matthews will turn the corner on a defense that struggled for most of the 2013 season. He needs to make strides this season if this defense is going to rebound. Matthews always has had the reputation for being both a ball hawk in the back end and a big hitter. We saw flashes of both last year, but if Matthews is going to be the standout player that this defense needs, he has to be more consistent in both areas. He also has to get healthy. It's not a good combination to have one of your most physical players struggling with his own health. Tentative play is a bad quality for a defensive back. The loss of Josh Harvey-Clemons at the other safety spot creates a hole that Matthews has to help fill with both his play and leadership. Not only will Matthews have to improve his own game, but he'll also be looked to as a teacher for other players. Matthews didn't have a great first season with the Bulldogs, but he's too talented and too gifted not to show improvement in Year 2. It will help that new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt will be hands-on with the secondary and has good history with past defensive backfields. The biggest thing for Matthews in 2014, outside of his health, might be his instincts. The second time through spring practice and summer workouts could help him think less and do more on the field.