Five-star receiver Mike Matthews has arrived in Knoxville. Tennessee’s offensive crown jewel of the 2024 class is getting started with the Volunteers after signing last week, participating in Citrus Bowl practices before things really get going for him in the spring.
The 6-1, 180 pound receiver out of Georgia was the 20th ranked player in the country, per 247Sports. After making things official, Tennessee head coach Josh Heupel could finally offer some thoughts on his newest weapon.
“Mike Matthews has been really good,” Heupel said of Matthews after going through the first few bowl practices. “First three, four days already out on the grass, got great length, just talking about his wingspan.”
Matthews chose Tennessee over offers from USC, Clemson, Georgia, Alabama and several others. The multi-sport athlete also played basketball and ran track in high school, at one point even receiving a basketball offer from Mississippi State. Matthews was once viewed as a defensive back by some, but he’ll find a home at receiver in Knoxville, looking to follow in the footsteps of Velus Jones Jr., Cedric Tillman and Jalin Hyatt working under Josh Heupel.
Reportedly, Matthews runs in the 4.4 range of the 40 yard dash. He averaged nearly 20 yards per catch as a senior, playing for Parkview High School in Lilburn, Georgia. Now at the college level, Matthews is getting his feet wet in hopes of cracking the rotation in the fall.
It sounds like Matthews might just be a little further along than most are at this point.
“Extremely explosive — the ability to go up and high-point a ball over the middle of the football field or out on the edge as he’s going vertically,” Heupel said. “As a wide receiver, you’re gonna have to develop the ability to play versus man press at the line of scrimmage. Those are things that you typically don’t see (in high school). But a really bright guy that has got a great future.”
Heupel’s staff really hasn’t played too many freshman at wide receiver — or any position — since he’s been at Tennessee. Squirrel White eventually forced his way into the rotation in 2022 late in the year, but outside of that, it’s typically veterans at the top of the depth chart. However, Matthews is easily the highest ranked prospect that Heupel has had at the position, so it’ll be interesting to see if he plays early.
Tennessee is set to return Squirrel, along with Dont’e Thornton, Chas Nimrod, Kaleb Webb and Nathan Leacock. They’re still waiting to hear from Bru McCoy, which could obviously impact Matthews’ playing time. They’ve also added 6-5 receiver Chris Brazzell from Tulane — a big get out of the transfer portal. While the depth chart may appear stacked in front of Matthews for the time being, we saw this year how quickly that can change.
Matthews will be one of the top storylines to follow once spring ball arrives.