AggieYell.com continues its countdown to the start of the 2014 season with its 30 players in 30 days feature on the most important players to Texas A&M's success for the upcoming campaign. The list continues with number 10, safety Howard Matthews.
Height/Weight: 6'2", 210 lbs.
2013 statistics: 90 tackles (44 solo), 2.5 TFL, 6 passes broken up, 3 INTs (1 TD) in 13 games (all starts)
Why he's on the list:, He's one of the veterans of the defensive secondary, and his performance could go a long way in determining whether the unit is a success or failure in 2014.
If you look at Matthews' numbers from last year on paper, they're stout - second on the team in tackles, first in solo tackles and tied for first in interceptions. However, it's never been the physical part of the game that has troubled Matthews, who has prototype speed and size for a boundary safety - it's been the mental aspect of the game that has bedeviled him. Prone to biting on play action, he found himself out of position multiple times against the pass in 2013, including against several dreaded wheel routes.
With the arrival of new defensive backs coach Terry Joseph, the safeties and corners went back to the drawing board, working on basics and being drilled on doing their job, not "freelancing." The coaches believe Matthews has gotten the message, playing his position and doing his job through the spring and summer practices.
While he's going to have to continue to work on his own instincts, Matthews' task becomes even greater this year as he'll have to serve as an on-field mentor to freshman Armani Watts and, to an extent, redshirt freshman corner Victor Davis. Matthews has the ability to be outstanding - he had 14 stops and a pick-six against Vanderbilt last year, then followed that up with two interceptions against UTEP - and if he can be consistent in 2014, he can be a major part of the a resurgent secondary. If he continues to make big mistakes, however, the defense could be in for a very long year and he eventually could be out of a job.