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Freshman Focus: Jacob Matuska

Jul 12, 2013, 10:24 AM EDT

Jacob Matuska

One of the earliest members of the ’13 recruiting class, Jacob Matuska fits the profile that Brian Kelly and his staff target perfectly. Recruited by some schools as a tight end, Matuska instead will start on the defensive side of the ball, capable of growing into a 3-4 defensive end quickly as he begins to put weight on his impressive 6-foot-5, 250-pound frame.

Targeted early by the Irish coaching staff, Matuska will get the opportunity to watch and learn from an elite defensive front. Under the tutelage of Mike Elston, Matuska should develop into another point-of-attack player that’s got plenty of athleticism for a defensive end.

Let’s take a closer look at the Columbus native.

RECRUITING PEDIGREE

Matuska isn’t among the most heralded members of the Irish recruiting class, falling outside both Rivals and 247′s top 250. At the time of his commitment, Matuska had mostly regional offers, though Big Ten programs Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Nebraska all offered.

There’s plenty to like about the player the Irish are getting, a product of an elite football program at Bishop Hartley in Columbus, Ohio. Described as a “street-fight football player” by his high school coach, it’s clear that the Irish staff quickly saw something they liked in Matuska.

“He’s going to physically get bigger and stronger,” Kelly said on Signing Day. “We just like his work ethic. We’re really excited about him as a person.  He’s going to fit in well here at Notre Dame, and another young man that really adds to the depth that we’re looking for in our program.”

EARLY PLAYING TIME OPPORTUNITIES

While the depth chart still isn’t as deep as the coaching staff wants on the defensive line, it’s difficult to picture Matuska playing too much as a true freshman. While we’ll figure out where he is physically when camp opens in August, the rotation up front behind Sheldon Day and Stephon Tuitt will likely include guys like Tony Springmann and Justin Utupo, with Jarron Jones hopefully ready to contribute after spending his freshman season drinking from the fire hose.

Where things get interesting up front is next season. While Tuitt has talked about staying for his senior season and getting his degree, his pro potential might make that decision much tougher. Add into the mix the uncertainty of Chase Hounshell’s recovery from another devastating shoulder surgery, and there’s going to be a fierce competition at defensive end in the coming seasons, with some unproven players needing to step up.

Realistically, a redshirt season might be the best thing for Matuska, learning the ropes from an All-American like Tuitt and diving into the technical aspects of line play, a requirement for Mike Elston’s troops.

PROJECTING THE FUTURE

There’s no reason to mistake Matuska as just a big body that’ll eat space up front. That’s not giving his athleticism enough credit. Take listed 40 times with a really, really big grain of salt, but most websites list Matuska in the 4.7 range. Even if that’s a pipe dream, running a sub-5.0 time along the defensive line is impressive.

What remains to be seen is if Matuska can take that athleticism and use it to develop as a pass rusher. Finding linemen that can both hold up at the point of attack and get pressure on the quarterback is key in this system and will ultimately determine whether or not Matuska becomes a prime contributor.

Life after Nix and Tuitt should be interesting for the Irish on defense. Nobody expected to see the front seven of the Irish transform so quickly during Kelly’s three seasons in South Bend, so there’s every reason to believe that this coaching staff saw and identified something they liked in Matuska quickly.

Playing at a program that dominated Jaylon Smith’s Bishop Luers team 40-7, Matuska should have the developmental tools and mindset to mix it up in the trenches. Add in a big frame and some nice athleticism, and he’s got a good future.

  1. 4horsemenrideagain - Jul 12, 2013 at 11:01 AM

    Matuska is going to be a monster when it’s all said and done. He has plenty of frame on which to add another 20 pounds or more, and playing in the same front seven with deeb and jaylon smith is going to be a unit that flies to the ball and causes lots of turnovers.

  2. mtflsmitty - Jul 12, 2013 at 12:12 PM

    While there are lots of folks here who are concerned with the QB situation, and vocalize loudly about it (see the 45+ comment yesterday), I reserve my fear for the quality of the defensive line behind Tuitt, Nix and Day.

    I know the thumbs down will likely come my way, but I’m seriously concerned about the quality of the skills we are massing along the defensive line and interior linebacker positions. And like some of the posts yesterday re TR, I will point out I’m not impugning (thx Nude) the work ethic or character of our recent recruits. Fine young men I am sure. Scrappy, street fighters, etc. But I am objectively pointing out we haven’t had recent success bringing guys with the same pedigree as Teo, Nix, Tuitt, the guy at USF, and that UCLA guy.

    Good, solid players are important for depth and overall health of the defense. But the elite recruits (not always, but more often than not) are required to have the dominating defense we have enjoyed for the last couple seasons.

    Here’s hoping our staff can land a couple big 2014 fish before they are all caught.

  3. fnc111 - Jul 12, 2013 at 12:38 PM

    Let’s cut to the chase. We want to read about Jalen Smith. The one cat who will actually play this year and probably be a stud.

  4. irishaggie - Jul 12, 2013 at 12:56 PM

    We landed 4 top 150 players according to espn on defense in Isaac rochell, jaylon smith, Doug Randolph, and max redfield this year. We are going to be ok. Listen to Brian Kelly’s interview about Isaac rochell and your concern will go away. 2014 depth on the d line will be solid even if tuitt takes off. Jones, Rochell, Day, Hayes, Trumbetti, Hounshell, Matuska, Springman, Blankenship, and Bonner as of right now. We’ll have enough for a 6 man rotation and if Tuitt comes back it will be the best defense in the country with the elite linebackers and DB’s recruited.

    • ndfansince69 - Jul 12, 2013 at 3:56 PM

      I hear Rochell, Luke and Randolph are surprising on the defensive side early. That bodes well for our depth. Offensively, they say Bryant and Folston are “as advertised”, with McGlinchey and Fuller really surprising! The latter with his speed! I would not be surprised to see just about everyone in this class contribute significantly during their four years. Should be fun to watch these guys grow.

      Go Irish!

      • nudeman - Jul 12, 2013 at 4:03 PM

        Really? You heard all this from who?

        Because they haven’t even had a practice yet.

  5. ndfansince69 - Jul 12, 2013 at 4:28 PM

    Nude-
    You are correct, no practices yet. Just conditioning and voluntary stuff. All observations from someone I know and trust and has the access. Take it for what you will. Normally wouldn’t say anything but, it’s Friday and I got fired up for ND football.

    Go Irish!

  6. mediocrebob - Jul 12, 2013 at 5:49 PM

    You’re all a bunch of women who think you know a lot more than you do. Just thought I’d throw that out there.

    • papadec - Jul 12, 2013 at 10:03 PM

      uh-oh – bob didn’t get the toy he wanted in his Happy Meal, or he got a little too happy @ happy hour & someone cut him off on the way home. Obviously we aren’t ALL a bunch of women, here. Jennifer does contribute on occasion, there was the nice former Oklahoma cheerleader – but by-and-large just a bunch of guys. Actually, some have played football, including @ ND, some are past & current coaches at various levels. I gotta say – your comment did get a laugh out of me & I almost choked on my tuna sandwich. Thanks for the laugh.

    • 1historian - Jul 14, 2013 at 4:23 PM

      your nom de plume – methinks you can do better

  7. audiguy - Jul 12, 2013 at 10:20 PM

    What does this coaching staff need to accomplish for some of you to have a little trust and faith. The program has improved every year. Sit back and enjoy. By the way why do haters even get on this forum? I am not on a OSU blog. Must be a boring life for some.

  8. ndirish86 - Jul 12, 2013 at 11:51 PM

    As far as I’m concerned, second-hand, friend-of-a-friend stories about what’s going on inside the program are fine. It’s all speculation anyway, the thought that there might be some actual info mixed in there spices it up just a little bit if you are willing to suspend disbelief just for the fun of it. I am, as long as people don’t take it too seriously, and ndfansince69 obviously doesn’t. Harmless.

  9. mediocrebob - Jul 13, 2013 at 10:47 AM

    And by tuna sandwich you mean…

    • papadec - Jul 13, 2013 at 3:57 PM

      bob – it was Friday. I was eating a tuna salad sandwich for supper, while catching up on the posts. I enjoyed the hand-grenade you lobbed in – thought I’d return the favor & lob one back.

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