A recruiting cycle before Notre Dame went hunting late for big bodies to play along the defensive line, they signed a player who might be able to fit that mold in 2014. Fresh off a redshirt, Jacob Matuska has the chance to add some much needed size and strength to Brian VanGorder’s defensive line, a group that’s mostly anonymous outside of Sheldon Day.
With veterans like Chase Hounshell and Tony Springmann getting the first look, Matuska might be a youthful option to provide some depth and take some snaps along the front four. Just where remains to be seen. Big enough to be either a tackle or a 3-4 end, Matuska’s a nice developmental piece who now has a chance to see the field.
Let’s take a look at the Columbus, Ohio native.
6’4.5″, 289 lbs.
Sophomore, No. 89
Another early target and commitment for the Irish (he pledged in March of 2012), Matuska didn’t garner much love on the star-meter, but did have offers from places like Michigan and Oklahoma. Some viewed him as a big-bodied tight end prospect. Notre Dame saw him as a defensive lineman.
“Another guy that can play in the profile that we have at the defensive line position for us but is also versatile enough that he can play on the other side of the ball,” Kelly said. “Our target is to play him on the defensive side of the ball. He’s going to physically get bigger and stronger. 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.”
Freshman Season (2013): Did not see action.
Until we see Matuska on the field, he can really only be viewed as unproven depth. He wasn’t the type of player that garnered praise during bowl prep, or stuck out during limited reps last spring. But the Irish coaching staff has done a good job identifying the defensive linemen they liked early, so it’s not entirely fair to assume that Matuska is going to be waving a towel on the sidelines, either.
There’s plenty to like about Matuska’s skill set. He’s a big guy. He played well-enough to be an All-Metro tight end for the Columbus Dispatch, while also receiving All-State kudos as a defensive end.
While he won’t have flowing red locks coming out of his helmet, he does remind me a bit of Tony Springmann, just from the fact that he’s an under-the-radar Midwest recruit that’s biggest asset is that he’s a gigantic human.
A profile player in Notre Dame’s last defensive system, Matuska will succeed in Brian VanGorder’s defense if he can rush the passer or make the transition to defensive tackle. Another place to watch Matuska is on offense — at the very least he could be the in-line blocker that doesn’t necessarily exist behind Ben Koyack yet. (Interestingly enough, Matuska’s wearing No. 89, an eligible jersey number.)
It’s hard to get a clear picture of Matuska the football player when we haven’t seen him yet. With fall camp starting in less than two weeks, we’ll see quickly if he’s in VanGorder’s 2014 plans or not.
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Torii Hunter Jr.