Irish A-to-Z: Jacob Matuska

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With Notre Dame’s defense falling apart, second-year player Jacob Matuska was thrown into the fire, earning playing time after the first (and most of the second) line of defense went down. While it wasn’t always pretty, Matuska held his own, with the Irish coaching staff hoping that the rising junior takes more good than bad from the experience.

Recruited as a stout-edge player in a 3-4 system by Bob Diaco, Matuska’s up to 295 pounds, the kind of heft you want at defensive tackle in Brian VanGorder’s system. Returning as depth behind some veteran talent, let’s take a closer look at how Matuska should fare a season after learning on the fly.

 

JACOB MATUSKA
6’4.5″, 295 lbs.
Junior, No. 89, DL

 

RECRUITING PROFILE

An early target and commitment for Notre Dame, Matuska wasn’t a highly-rated player, but did have offers from Michigan and Oklahoma.

He played a ton of tight end in high school, but Notre Dame always saw him as a defensive line prospect.

 

PLAYING CAREER

Freshman Season (2013): Did not see action.

Sophomore Season (2014): Played in seven games, starting his first against USC. Saw the majority of his snaps in the season’s final three games, forced into action after injuries to Sheldon Day, Jarron Jones and Daniel Cage. Had five tackles against Louisville including a sack. Had six total tackles on the season.

 

WHAT WE SAID LAST YEAR

Matuska made the transition to defensive tackle not end, and was forced onto the field when everybody else got injured.

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.

 

FUTURE POTENTIAL

At his absolute best, Matuska still feels like a piece of the puzzle. That’s not a knock on a defensive lineman who has all the size and length you desire, but rather the cumulative effect of recruiting the trenches with recruits who aren’t necessarily blue-chippers.

Matuska struggled (understandably) at times, asked to step into a starting lineup that resembled a scout team late in the year. That jump into live action will either serve as a spring board or a brief moment in the sun, a depth-chart backup doing his best to help the unit win football games.

With a fifth-year available, Matuska’s future in South Bend will be reliant on more forward progress. So the clearest picture of his role in the defense will likely be once Sheldon Day and Jarron Jones are gone.

 

CRYSTAL BALL

Matuska still feels like an emergency option to me, though he’ll hardly be as green as the guy we saw learning on the fly last season. Give him credit for a nice performance against Louisville, though a stinger in his shoulder robbed him of performing better moving forward, not exactly great luck considering he was still drinking from the fire hydrant.

But if you’re looking for a datapoint that shows how far this program has come since the Weis era, Matuska certainly can be one. Notre Dame didn’t have 295-pound defensive tackles on their third string back then, they were starting.

That doesn’t look like a reality for Matuska unless things go haywire. And even then, he’ll have to compete with Jerry Tillery, Jay Hayes, Daniel Cage and Peter Mokwuah to get on the field.

 

THE 2015 IRISH A-to-Z
Josh Adams, RB
Josh Barajas, OLB
Nicky Baratti, S
Alex Bars, OL
Asmar Bilal, OLB
Hunter Bivin, OL
Grant Blankenship, DE
Jonathan Bonner, DE
Miles Boykin, WR
Justin Brent, WR
Greg Bryant, RB
Devin Butler, CB
Jimmy Byrne, OL
Daniel Cage, DL
Amir Carlisle, RB
Nick Coleman, DB
Te’von Coney, LB
Shaun Crawford, DB
Scott Daly, LS
Sheldon Day, DL
Michael Deeb, LB
Micah Dew-Treadway, DL
Steve Elmer, RG
Matthias Farley, DB
Nicco Fertitta, DB
Tarean Folston, RB
Will Fuller, WR
Jarrett Grace, LB
Jalen Guyton, WR
Mark Harrell, OL
Jay Hayes, DL
Mike Heuerman, TE
Kolin Hill, DE
Tristen Hoge, C
Corey Holmes, WR
Chase Hounshell, TE
Torii Hunter, Jr. WR
Alizé Jones, TE
Jarron Jones, DL
DeShone Kizer, QB
Tyler Luatua, TE
Cole Luke, CB
Nick Martin, C
Greer Martini, LB