The young man who made one of the best plays of this past weekend’s thriller against Virginia Tech was Jackie Matthews. Matthews hasn’t taken the easiest route to the hills of West Virginia, but he’s been holding down the cornerback position when his name is called upon.
The play to secure the victory over the Hokies came on a pass off the fingers of Tech quarterback Brock Burmeister who was seeking a Tre Turner completion, but Matthews had other plans picking the ball off at the two-yard line. Not to mention Matthews was able to come down with five tackles on Saturday and also delivered with three tackles at Maryland and in the home opener against Long Island.
Matthews is a redshirt junior this year and is looked at as one of the leaders in a fairly young Mountaineer secondary. The redshirt junior has been duking it out with Daryl Porter Jr. at the cornerback spot all through the summer and fall.
“We’re playing him multiple positions, he’s played spear for us, we got our dime package he’s playing,” WVU head coach Neal Brown said. “He’s playing basically the will linebacker position then he’s playing corner and he played all those positions through three games. So, his mental approach has been much improved as well.”
On Tuesday, Brown discussed how he’s watched Matthews evolution and mental game approach to the game mature over time since he’s been alongside him in Morgantown. Brown also described his redshirt junior as having a presence on defense.
“The thing that I like about Jackie is he plays one speed, he is one of the best strikers we have,” Brown said. “What I mean by that is when he comes downhill he uses good technique, he’s coming downhill, he’s not a guy that’s diving at ankles he’s running through contact. He’s got a little presence about him that maybe some of the guys on that side of the ball don’t have just as far you know, he’s got a little bit of bounce to him and so I really like the way he plays.”
The former Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College player transferred over to West Virginia in 2020 when he started one game and appeared in 10 matchups for the Mountaineers.
“You see this in college football, the junior players or second years are usually much improved. And that’s been for sure the case with Jackie and part of that is he’s worked with Alonzo and Scottie Young really going back into January after the season when they came back and those three have really worked to put in some extra time and really earned that opportunity to have successful seasons,” Brown said.
While Matthews was in Mississippi he helped the team secure an undefeated season and a junior-college national championship in the same year while being named a First Team Junior College All-American. What’s even more impressive is the cornerback picked off the pass to secure the national championship over Lackawanna in the last seconds of the game.
The defensive back was mainly known as an interception threat and picked off six passes for Top-5 in junior college rankings that year. His freshman year at Miss Gulf Coast in 2017 saw Matthews produce 17 tackles and a forced fumble in more limited playing time.
Coming out of high school Matthews was heavily recruited and received offers from Arkansas State, Southern Miss, UCF, South Alabama and UAB. The defensive back is originally from Pinson Valley, Alabama and led his team senior year to a 6A state championship while playing quarterback.
Matthews will look to continue to make big plays on the defensive side of the ball for his Mountaineers heading to Oklahoma this weekend.