NFL can wait for receiver helping Vanderbilt growBy TERESA M. WALKER , Associated Press
Aug. 14, 2013 7:50 PM ET
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Jordan Matthews has too much confidence in what James Franklin is doing at Vanderbilt to leave just yet.
Not even a change in quarterback could persuade the receiver that maybe he should test the NFL draft and move onto the pros. The top returning receiver in the Southeastern Conference said Franklin's key isn't the players, but the system the coach installed.
"The system and the process that coach Franklin has implemented is built for success and built to win games and built to help guys be successful and get to the next level," Matthews said. "So yes, Jordan (Rodgers) and I had a great connection. But at no point was I worried about that dropping off."
Matthews ranked second in the SEC only to Cobi Hamilton of Arkansas with his 1,323 yards receiving, and that total put him eighth nationally. Matthews also caught 94 passes and scored eight touchdowns, and he averaged 101.77 yards receiving per game. He helped the Commodores go 9-4, the SEC's only private school's best record since 1915.
In conference play, Matthews was even better averaging 116.9 yards receiving. Even though Vanderbilt signed five receivers in February to add a new crop of receivers, hearing Matthews had decided to return made offensive coordinator John Donovan very happy.
"He's first-team All-SEC for a reason," Donovan said. "He's a heck of a player. He's made a lot of plays here. He works harder than anybody else we have on this team. He's a great leader. We're excited to have him, and he's going to have a great year for us."
With Rodgers gone, Austyn Carta-Samuels is expected to start at quarterback. Carta-Samuels started against Presbyterian last season, and he also started at Wyoming before transferring. Matthews said he has extreme confidence in Carta-Samuels.
"Austyn's going to do great for us," Matthews said.
Carta-Samuels worked with Matthews during the summer trying to build their chemistry together. He noticed how hard Rodgers and Matthews worked to build their connection, which turned into lots of yards and touchdowns. Through all the passing sessions, Carta-Samuels has been impressed by how hard the 6-foot-3, 206-pound receiver from Madison, Ala., works.
"He has unbelievable hands, probably the biggest hands I've ever seen," Carta-Samuels said. "He runs extremely fast. He's tall. His work ethic is the best I've ever seen in college football."
Matthews also is what he calls one of the original Flyboyz, a term he helped coin for the Vanderbilt receivers as a freshman to create a little swagger for the unit that went through a 2-10 season in 2010 before Franklin arrived. That group includes junior Chris Boyd, whose 774 yards receiving were eighth in the SEC last season, and senior Jonathan Krause.
Now he sees kids excited on Instagram wanting to be FlyBoyz too, and Matthews jokes with the freshmen receivers that they must earn their FlyBoyz wings once they survive August camp.
"We can't just go out there and be players," Matthews said of the freshmen. "You also have to be teachers, so that's what I'm really trying to focus on this ... camp is just being the player I need to be for the team and also being the leader I need to be for the young guys."
With Vanderbilt helping open the season Aug. 29 hosting Mississippi, it's a combination that has Matthews excited to see what the Commodores can do next. At the start of camp, he said he felt like a child on Christmas day ready to go play and see what Vanderbilt can do this season focusing on all the little details first.
"Do it consistently because that's what's going to take us from being like a great team to being elite and being a team that's in discussion for championships," Matthews said. "We aren't talking about championships right now. We're just talking about that first game. We go do what we got to do for that game, and we'll be elite each day."
Notes: Vanderbilt announced a three-game series with Western Kentucky on Wednesday starting in 2015 with two games in Nashville. But the Commodores will be the first SEC team to visit Western Kentucky at Houchens-L.T. Smith Stadium in 2016. ... Franklin surprised his Commodores with a visit from an ice cream truck at the end of Wednesday morning's practice.
Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker