Bulldog players impressed with Newnan's Matthews
It will be 10 years this fall since Jones was an All-American at the same position for the Bulldogs before embarking on an NFL career that included stops in Cleveland, Philadelphia and Tampa Bay, but those in the program filled in Jones on the big potential of Tray Matthews.
Jones was a returning junior starter when Georgia played at Clemson in the 2003 opener in his final college season.
Matthews is in line to make his Bulldogs debut at Clemson on Aug. 31 in his first college season.
'That's a big step for a young guy coming in as a true freshman playing at this level, especially in the SEC, but I've heard nothing but great things about him,' Jones said.
He got word about Matthews from staff member Bryant Gantt and defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, who coached Jones with the Browns.
'They said he came in early, did a great job this spring and put his foot in the door and did well,' Jones said. 'I think he's up for the challenge. I haven't seen him play yet, but the coaching staff is very excited about him. I'm looking forward to checking him out.'
Matthews is atop the preseason depth chart at free safety and it would be a surprise if he's not in the starting lineup against Clemson.
The Georgia roster continues to grow with talent from Coweta County. Matthews is among at least four former high school talents from the area with the Bulldogs, joining fellow freshman defender DeAndre Johnson (Northgate), redshirt freshman tight end Cole Trolinger (East Coweta) and offensive lineman Eddie McQuillen (Trinity Christian), a redshirt-sophomore.
'It's a humbling experience and, yes, I'm ready for Clemson,' Matthews said. 'We've been working hard this whole summer and this spring. … I'm ready for it. That's why I came in early and coaches had prepared me and got me ready to play for the first game. I'm just blessed to be in this situation.'
Matthews will play in a showcase, primetime, nationally televised game on ABC.
Matthews said there will be more pressure on him while starting strong safety Josh Harvey-Clemons serves a onegame suspension after a dorm incident involving marijuana.
'I think it will,' Matthews said. 'It hurt me, too. It is what it is. We're going to come prepared.'
'We took a little minor blow for that first game, but I'm not worried about Tray at all,' said sophomore cornerback Sheldon Dawson. 'We took him under our wing ever since he got here in January. He came in ready. I'm not going to look at him to be perfect, to have a perfect game. He's still a freshman. He's still a human being. He's going to make some mistakes, I'm going to make plenty of mistakes. It's how we bounce back from our mistakes.'
The 6-foot Matthews says he's training at about 211 pounds this summer and has already been spotted by fans.
'To be honest with you, it was kind of crazy in high school, too, when I came up here,' he said. 'It's still a little crazy for me, but I like to feel like I'm just a regular guy, though.'
HOUSTON REINSTATED AFTER THREE YEAR WAIT: Georgia offensive lineman Kolton Houston is finally cleared to play for the Bulldogs.
The school announced Thursday evening that the NCAA granted reinstatement to Houston, who had been barred from playing for testing positive for a banned substance.
Georgia had said that Houston was unknowingly given a substance banned by the NCAA - the anabolic steroid Norandrolone - after sustaining shoulder injuries playing for Buford High School. He first tested positive in 2010 and had not met the threshold despite repeated testing and what he has said was no re-use.
Houston has two years of eligibility remaining, according to Georgia, and could petition for a third year following his fifth year.