Want to attack every day with the latest Georgia football recruiting info? That’s the Intel. This rep has the latest with 5-star junior Mike Matthews. The in-state star at Parkview High ranks as the nation’s No. 2 ATH and the No. 14 overall prospect for 2023 on the 247Sports Composite ratings.
There comes a time when writing matters more than information flow with quotes and transitions and news blurbs in a recruiting story.
There are some players that deserve more than a weather report about which way they might be leaning.
Parkview High’s Mike Matthews is one of those players. If someone wanted to shout out there are not three players in the state of Georgia playing better than Matthews right now, it would not alarm this reporter.
There are at least a bushel’s worth of reasons to share why:
- The 6-foot-2 Matthews has been the definition of an explosive player in 2022 with seven touchdowns among his 22 catches. Those big plays have gone for an average of 25.9 yards per catch.
- Matthews has touchdowns covering 75 and 99 yards this year, but his best play was probably a game-winning corner post route last season against Pebblebrook. The game was on the line and it was a big-time play in a wild atmosphere. That one meant more to him, too.
- He had 48 catches for 784 yards and seven touchdowns in big-boy Class 7A football in Gwinnett County as a sophomore in 2021.
- Did you ever watch old-school players like Marcus Allen and Marvin Harrison and Jerry Rice and see them eat up grass? They were moving, but they were so smooth it looked like they were gliding. Motoring down the field looked so effortless. That’s what Matthews brings to mind.
- A decent cross-section of the recruiting industry thinks Matthews can also be an NFL safety. That’s the sort of talent we are looking at here.
- His best traits? Ball skills and length. His wingspan has been measured at approximately 78 inches. That’s a wide catch radius for any skill guy.
- He’s a three-sport athlete that also competes in basketball and track. Matthews thinks of playing both basketball and football in college. Does he have basketball offers? “I don’t have any offers,” he said. “They see my side of football and how highly I am spoken of so they think ‘Aw, he’s not playing basketball’ so no.”
- There was a 7-on-7 tournament in March when Matthews torched the competition for three touchdowns and a lot of big plays. “He just rips that particular day up,” Hustle Inc. coach Tony Ballard said. “He turns around and says ‘Coach I have got to leave’ and he said he had a basketball game at 5 p.m. that night. He leaves us and goes and drops 30 points in a basketball game. Then comes back the next day and just destroyed it again. As I said, I think the kid is just a freak.”
- Matthews is also a 5-star prospect ranked among the top 15 players in the 2024 class. Yet he wants people to be known for more than that. “I want people to know you can always count on me,” he said. “To be one of those guys. To be known for that rather than just being one of those 5-star guys. I don’t really take breaks. Even during the week. I mean after practice, then I am always working after practice. I’m just about the effort and extra work.”
- That’s enough, but those that know him and his game feel he has a couple more gears to go with his game.
He’s the type of player that conjures up all the player parallels. Many recruiting reporters will moan about that chore, but it is great reader service.
There’s no other way to grab quick attention to a player’s potential than bring up big names. That doesn’t mean they will turn out to be that type of player with that type of career.
Those parallels, when relayed in the right context, are mere snapshots of capabilities and talent trees.
These parallels mean they can do the type of things that their parallel was known to do on the field. They can say their output will look the way that those great players did it.
When another player is brought up, that helps the reader relate to them more. It’s like a food critic. When someone brings up something that tastes like chicken or ranch dressing or chocolate, that is a common ground and a starting point of comprehension.
Zelus Hicks, his talented Parkview teammate, brought up the name Travis. That was a first-word parallel that needs no further details for anyone that has followed Georgia high school football.
Matthews has that sort of talent. But his talent is not a carbon copy of Travis Hunter.
Hunter was the 5-star cornerback that showed the nation what he could do when he moonlighted over at receiver. He was plug-and-play electric in any role.
Matthews has reversed the circuit board here. He is a talented receiver that can also flip right to the defensive side and put the brakes on any vertical passing game. He’s playing sparingly now for Parkview on defense. That’s because of Hicks. The 6-foot-3 Hicks already has a Georgia offer and he helps to shore up the Parkview secondary.
Matthews has a copious amount of tools, but none are more effective than his ball skills while playing a ball in the air. Those came from his years on the hardwood.
His Dad is 6 feet, 8 inches tall. He was a four-year starter in basketball at Siena that wound up playing overseas.
Defense? Offense? Both? What does Matthews think about that?
“Sometimes I think I would like receiver more,” he said. “But when I play defense and am out there actually doing it, I’m like ‘I really like this, too’ so it is tough.”
“We don’t really truly know what he is capable of yet. But he’s damn sure turning heads.”
Mike Matthews: Is Georgia right in the mix with the 5-star junior?
It seemed for a while the perception on the street was that the Bulldogs were on the outside looking in with Matthews. He had his eyes on West Coast programs like USC and Oregon. The thinking was he was looking to go way out of state with his decision.
“It was nothing like that,” Matthews said of the talk he wanted to play out-of-state. “It just happened. I don’t know how to answer that question. It wasn’t that I didn’t like Georgia, but I just decided not to go to the games. For USC, I was already out there for basketball.”
Matthews isn’t quite sure where those notions came from with Georgia.
“They’ve always been in the mix,” he said. “There’s never been a time when I didn’t like them. It is just last year I don’t think I was really known as a prospect. Everybody came into the mix in my sophomore year. My sophomore summer. It wasn’t that I didn’t like them, but I wasn’t like that really well-known quote-unquote like that back then.”
If he does wind up as a ‘Dawg, it sounds like Bryan McClendon and Will Muschamp will arm wrestle for his services in their room.
“Yeah it is like that,” Matthews said. “It is either or for me. They want me as an athlete to play offense or defense.”
What sort of interest level has he seen from Georgia?
“Yeah, they are recruiting me hard,” Matthews said. “They never told me that I was a priority but they just like me as an athlete. They like how I play. They like how I can play both sides of the ball.”
The Parkview junior saw Georgia play Oregon in the opener. He feels that his visit for the Kent State game gave him a much broader understanding of the chance to play in Athens.
“I really got to sit down and talk to more coaches with them than my first time going,” he said. “I got to sit down with Kirby. I got to talk to the DB coach. Coach Muschamp. I got to talk to pretty much everybody. I was literally involved in every aspect of the game while I was there. That was another thing that made it big.”
“I went to the Oregon game but I wasn’t with them since it was at the Benz.”
Matthews got to visit with the ‘Dawgs in the locker room after the game.
“It was very inspiring,” he said. “All the players rallied up. It wasn’t really just the coach talk. It was really the players talking about how they could have done things better with things in that game.”
What does he like best about the ‘Dawgs?
“I would probably say the atmosphere,” he said. “I like the atmosphere. All the players really want to win. All the crowd is really in on it.”
As of now, he said to look for him to make his decision in the summer before his senior year. He will look to attend the Alabama vs. Auburn game in November. There’s a chance he might be back for the Auburn game in Athens this week.
He’s also going to try and attend the Michigan vs. Ohio State game. Clemson is another school he hopes to check out again for a game this fall.
Matthews said Auburn, Clemson, Georgia, LSU, Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Ohio State and USC are the schools that are talking to him the most right now.
What is he looking for in the perfect fit?
“I would probably say the place I can see myself living at and having the most fun at,” Matthews said. “The school as well with the best chance of me playing. You can be at the right school and a good school but of course, you want to play. You don’t want to sit on the bench.”
Two dialed-in scouting reports on Mike Matthews
Matthews grew up playing sports. All his life. But he worked on his body for this season. He hit the weights. His hands are also better. He’s worked on those.
He made a huge catch earlier this year against Mill Creek. That came right on top of all-everything 5-star Alabama commit Caleb Downs.
He has savored being a part of his team this year. Watching his teammates progress and relishing in the camaraderie. The 5-star junior cares for the guys he rides with on Friday nights and wants to see them excel.
His reps this year have slanted to the offensive side. It depends on the flow of the game.
Eric Godfree, his coach at Parkview High, said Matthews started his last three or four games as a freshman. He had two interceptions playing free safety.
His first big play was when he flew up to the line of scrimmage and blew up a Tucker running back for no gain. That was back in 2020.
“They’ve got him rated as a top 10 athlete in the country and it is legit,” Godfree said. “He has right at a 6-foot-5 wingspan but the way he can jump sets him apart. If you watch his basketball highlights, he can jump and hit his head on the rim. He’s super explosive and has got great hands.”
“He’s a full-time wide receiver and a rotating safety for us because he is so dangerous on the field and with the ball in his hands and running routes. All the way from underneath to the middle and going over the top.”
There is also a strong character component to acknowledge here.
“He does everything with a smile on his face, too,” Godfree said. “That’s what is so much fun about him.”
Matthews has a couple of gears left to show with his game because he hasn’t spent a lot of time at receiver. He’s been playing basketball all his life. As a means of comparison, most of the top national receiver prospects have been working with a position-specific trainer for years.
Tony Ballard, his lead 7-on-7 coach at Hustle, Inc., says it shows how much potential is still on the table for Matthews.
“I don’t think that Mike has scratched the surface yet,” Ballard said. “I really don’t. People think Mike is really good right now. But Mike really just started having wide receiver training. Most of these kids that are the elite guys playing receiver -- let’s say in the surrounding counties -- have a personal wide receiver trainer. Mike’s never had any training or anything like that because he played basketball. He would go from one sport to the next sport.”
“I’m saying to you that my point here is because he’s had some training now or is getting training now I think his development is going to go sky-high. People just don’t know what he’s capable of doing.”
Hustle, Inc. featured him at receiver this spring. That’s because they saw something there and also largely due to the fact they had three safeties that can play anywhere on Saturdays.
“I can’t say that he is a generational guy yet,” Ballard said. “Because we don’t really truly know what he is capable of yet. But he’s damn sure turning heads. The kid is a phenomenal athlete and he is a first-class young man. He is a heckuva kid. A heck of a kid.”
“He does everything with a smile on his face, too. That’s what is so much fun about him.”
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