Greg Mathews is the most talented wide receiver on Michigan. No question.
However, many critics argue that he does not possess the ability to be a playmaker for the Wolverines.
Greg Mathews committed to Michigan on Nov. 20, 2005 out of Edgewater High School in Orlando, FL. Mathews was ranked as the No. 8 ranked wide receiver in the nation, No. 11 overall player in Florida, and the No. 93 overall prospect in the class of 2006.
Mathews passed on a great number of schools, including the school that his cousin Ted Ginn Jr. attended, the Ohio State University.
In 2006, Mathews played as a true freshman primarily as the fourth wide receiver behind Steve Breaston, Mario Manningham, and Adrian Arrington. Mathews caught seven passes for 68 yards and an average of 9.7 yards per catch.
The following Spring, Mathews received the John F. Maulbetsch Award which is given to the freshman football candidate that shows the basis of desire, character, capacity for leadership and future success both on and off the gridiron.
In 2007, Mathews stepped into the role as the third wide receiver behind Mario Manningham and Adrian Arrington. Mathews caught 39 passes for 366 yards and three touchdowns, including seven receptions against his native Florida Gators in the Capital One Bowl.
In 2008, Mathews assumed the role as the primary receiver after the early departures of Mario Manningham and Adrian Arrington and the retirement of legendary coach Lloyd Carr. Mathews caught only 35 passes for 409 yards and two touchdowns including an average of 11.7 yards per catch.
He missed the game against the Miami Redhawks due to injury.
Greg Mathews has experienced a successful collegiate career despite a disappointing 2008 campaign. However, can his 2008 campaign be completely attributed to his playmaking ability? No, it cannot.
The Florida native came to Michigan with the full intention of developing under Lloyd Carr and Erik Campbell as the next great Michigan wide receiver. Michigan was a perfect fit and opportunity for Greg Mathews.
Michigan ran a pro-style offense, had a proven star quarterback in Chad Henne, a mentoring group of receivers in Breaston, Manningham, and Arrington, an offensive line anchored by Jake Long, and a defense that arguably played as well as any defense in the history of college football in 2006.
Furthermore, it was fairly predictable that gun-slinging Ryan Mallett would be coming to Michigan a year after Mathews.
So what happened? Rich Rodriguez and his spread offense happened.
The hiring of Rich Rodriguez as the next head football coach of Michigan lead to two certainties: the spread offense and the end of a dynasty.
Rich Rodriguez decided to retain only one coach from the previous staff, running backs coach Fred Jackson. He brought in most of his West Virginia coaches, their traditions, and their education levels.
Meanwhile, Ron English moved on to be the defensive coordinator at Louisville, Mike DeBord went to coach the offensive line of the Seattle Seahawks, Andy Moeller accepted a position working with the offensive line of the Baltimore Ravens, Erik Campbell is now the wide receivers coach at Iowa, Scot Loeffler coaches the quarterbacks for the Detroit Lions, and Vance Bedford won a National Championship coaching the secondary at Florida.
So there goes the pro-style offense, along with the departures of Ryan Mallett, Adrian Arrington, Mario Manningham, and other crucial members of the Michigan Football program.
Greg Mathews was to assume the primary receiver role in Rich Rodriguez's new spread offense. As you can tell, that didn't happen. Why? The spread offense utilizes more receivers, shorter routes, and simplified route combinations.
Players like Martavious Odoms thrive in the small spaces and thus are a better fit in the spread offense. The offensive line was highly questionable, the run game was subpar, and Michigan lacked experience at quarterback.
However, Greg Mathews made the most of his limited opportunities. Remember the Notre Dame game when Mathews had a SportsCenter caliber touchdown that was ruled out of bounds by a blown call only to be apologized for later that week?
Or the Minnesota game with his spectacular one-handed catch that set up his spectacular release move for a touchdown? Probably not because you were too embarrassed by the performance of the 2008 Wolverines.
Let's also look at the cornerbacks that 'focused' on Greg Mathews in the 2008 campaign. Vontae Davis of Illinois, Malcolm Jenkins of Ohio State, and Shawn Smith of Utah. Mel Kiper projects Davis to be picked 25th overall in April's draft, Jenkins 14th overall, and Smith to be taken someday on Day One.
Not only did Mathews have top talent covering him every play, but he was also held back by poor quarterback play, poor play calling, and all around poor coaching.
So what does the future hold for Greg Mathews?
Greg Mathews does not only possess the physical attributes to be a playmaker for the Wolverines, but that he has the skill set to eventually compete in the NFL. It is true that his career has not matched up statistically to some of the current NFL receivers such as Amani Toomer, Braylon Edwards, Jason Avant, Steve Breaston, or Mario Manningham.
However, his combination of strength and height complemented by precise route running, unmatched hands, and knowledge of the game, makes him an enticing prospect to NFL teams and an undervalued player to many Michigan Football fans.
Chad Henne said that "Greg Mathews has the talent and hands to be a first round draft pick. He runs such precise routes to make up for his speed. Don't get me wrong, Greg is a tremendous athlete and is plenty fast to compete in the NFL, but it truly is his rare hands and route running abilities that make him special."
Those comments are coming from a guy who has thrown to Braylon Edwards, Steve Breaston, Mario Manningham, Adrian Arrington, Ted Ginn Jr, and other great receivers. Mathews is a muscular 6'4", 209 lbs, with great hands, leaping ability, and route running.
Greg Mathews may not wear the No. 1 jersey, have a 1,000-yard season, have a 10+ touchdown season. He may not have the most receptions for Michigan in 2009. He may not have the most touchdowns in 2009.
However, let's remember that he is playing in a NFL wide receiver handicapped offense and his skill set is unappreciated in Rich Rodriguez's offense. Although he may be disliked and under appreciated by the common Michigan fan, those with extensive football knowledge and those in the National Football League understand what Greg Mathews can bring to the table.
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