While many marveled at Georgia’s receiving corps before injuries depleted its depth, Vanderbilt’s wideout duo has quietly shined through the first half of the season.
The two-headed threat of Jordan Matthews and Jonathan Krause has become the top tandem in the Southeastern Conference’s Eastern division. They’ve combined for 1,139 yards and seven touchdowns, and each ranks among the top 10 in the conference in receiving yards.
Krause has been a solid role player, but it’s Matthews who is having the standout season.
The senior will begin the homestretch of his career today as the Commodores begin the second half of their season. And if he wasn’t already picking up NFL draft hype after a 1,323 yard, eight-touchdown outing last year, he’s turning heads now.
“Matthews is definitely a high draft pick,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “He’s going to play, if he’s healthy, a lot of years in the NFL. “
Richt watched Matthews amass 119 yards on Georgia last year despite the Bulldogs winning comfortably, 48-3. Matthews also had 46 yards and a score the year prior, which also resulted in a Georgia win.
“He’s not super big, but he’s strong and fast with great hands,” Richt said. “He’s just a great player.”
Matthews’s ability has teams gameplanning around him in various ways. Vanderbilt coach James Franklin said that the wideout has drawn odd coverages that sometimes have him scratching his head, but Matthews said “it’s all part of the game.”
“At South Carolina, Clowney dropped back into coverage with me,” Matthews said. “Teams try a lot of different things against me. There have been a lot of collisions from linebackers, double teams from safeties and corners being physical and aggressive at the line of scrimmage.”
That’s because Matthews is a key cog in the SEC’s fifth-ranked pass offense.
The Commodores are coming off a bye and looking to exploit a young Georgia secondary — one that has started five freshmen or first-year starters thus far and one that is giving up 259.3 yards through the air per game. Richt said there would be no major changes to Georgia’s unseasoned unit this week, which means he will rely on a group that struggled the first half of the season.
The Bulldogs have been susceptible on third down (allowing a 44 percent conversion rate) and in the fourth quarter (allowing nine points per game), which are two areas that Matthews could impose. He’s caught six third-down conversions this year for an average of 14 yards, and has been most effective in the fourth quarter having logged 234 yards and two of his five touchdowns.
Despite that the Commodores have struggled to “finish strong.” They’ve been even-keel against opponents statistically except for scoring, a part of why they sit at 3-3 and 0-3 in the SEC.
“We have to make sure we go out there and score on every drive, whether that’s field goals or touchdowns. Each Saturday you’re seeing the points go higher and higher, even in the SEC. … We’re going to get with that trend. I think on the back end of the season you’re going to see that a lot more,” Matthews said to 102.5 The Game in Nashville.