For the second straight year, a Tennessee signee has won the offensive MVP award at the Polynesian Bowl. Following in the footsteps of his future quarterback Nico Iamaleava, five-star receiver Mike Matthews took home the honors this year.
Matthews signed with Tennessee as a consensus five-star prospect last month.
The 6-1, 180 pound receiver prospect scored the first touchdown of the game, taking a slant pass from Dylan Raiola for six. It was a catch and run for Matthews, which put his speed and explosiveness on full display.
5-star Tennessee signee Mike Matthews seems kinda quick pic.twitter.com/0SwZXFnT9m— SEC Mike (@MichaelWBratton) January 20, 2024
TOUCHDOWN MIKE MATTHEWS pic.twitter.com/yaesz6k1Qo— More Important Issues (@More_Issues) January 20, 2024
Matthews finished with two catches for 44 yards and a touchdown.
Per the 247Sports Composite rankings, Matthews is ranked as the 20th overall player in the class of 2024. He’s the fifth-ranked receiver prospect in the nation, coming out of the state of Georgia. Matthews played for Parkview High School in Lilburn, Georgia.
Matthews joined the team last month during bowl practices.
“Mike Matthews has been really good,” Heupel said of his early practices. “First three, four days already out on the grass, got great length, just talking about his wingspan. 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. 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.”
Matthews joins a receiver depth chart that appears fairly set at the top. Bru McCoy returns from injury, while Squirrel White will come back to his slot role. Dont’e Thornton returns with Chas Nimrod and Kaleb Webb behind him. Tulane transfer Chris Brazzell will also enter the picture.
Heupel doesn’t typically play freshmen much at receiver, but he also hasn’t had one come in this highly rated before. Matthews will be one to watch this spring, and it’s going to be interesting to see where he’s at in the pecking order.