Newnan defensive back Tray Matthews was all set to commit to the University of Georgia. The 2013 safety had just one last stop to make. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, that trip was to Tuscaloosa.
Following Dawg Night, the 6-1, 193-pound rising junior admitted he had seen enough of Georgia to know he would like to play in Athens. But having not yet visited his number two school, Matthews decided to take a visit to Alabama to see how the two SEC programs stacked up.
"Our mindset going into the visit to Alabama was to see how it compared to UGA. And when we got there, we found out the two schools are almost identical," Matthews said. "The coaches at Alabama were very into their players, they work hard to get better on the field and in the weight room, and the academics are similar."
The Crimson Tide staff definitely left a positive impression on the young Newnan area standout.
"Scott Cochran, the strength coach at Alabama, is really crazy and really down to earth, and he was the coach I loved the most," explained Matthews. "Really looking at both of the strength coaches at Georgia and Alabama, it is exactly the same, with all of the yelling and pushing you to be better."
Matthews, who spoke to Coach Nick Saban and Coach Kirby Smart extensively during his time in Tuscaloosa, saw some similarities and some differences between the two coaching staffs.
"Coach John Lilly and Coach Smart are almost the same too. Both try to make sure we are comfortable, and both spent the time getting to know my whole family as well. Mark Richt is more calm and he did not do all of that cussing. Nick Saban did. He said a couple words. Nick Saban was also telling me more about my future after college. He said he knows I have the abilities and the future to play in the NFL. Mark Richt was focused on just now and when I get to UGA," admitted Matthews. "The first thing both schools tried to sell me on was academics. They are both really tough on academics, and Coach Smart said Alabama and Georgia are neck and neck in their academic standings in the SEC."
Looking ahead to the 2013 class, Matthews projects as one of the most talented safeties in the southeast. The hard hitting junior is a physical presence who must be accounted for whenever he is on the field. And getting on the field early at the next level was definitely a selling point by Alabama's head coach.
"Coach Saban took it a bit further because he has six defensive backs on the field at the same time. I feel like I could come in and start at either, but Coach Saban uses a defense that a bunch of NFL teams run. At Alabama you get to shift around a lot and at Georgia you just have the two safeties back reading the play; plain old football there," said Matthews.
Matthews felt confident two weeks ago that he knew which prominent college football program he would suit up for, but that is no longer the case.
"I needed them to blow me away to keep me from committing to Georgia, and that's really what they did. Alabama has made my decision that much more difficult," said Matthews.
Some recent advice has Matthews curious as to how the upcoming football season will unfold, and it appears that the success or failure of the Bulldogs will be the key to his decision.
"At first I was planning on committing by the end of the summer, but now the coaches are telling me to wait and check out how they do during the season, and see what coaches are going to be there at the end of the year," said Matthews. "I plan to visit Alabama and Georgia for a couple of games this season, and it will likely come down to that. If Georgia does not have a good season, and Coach Richt is not there, then I will go to Alabama. I know that for a fact. I will see how they do in those early games, and make my decision from there."
For Matthews, the choice to delay his commitment means it is time to turn his attention on leading his Cougars deep into the playoffs.
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