Sun Devils leading in the recruitment of five-star safety Jacoby Mathews
When five-star safety Jacoby Mathews released his top six schools last Tuesday, the outcast wasn’t tough to spot. There was LSU, Florida, USC, Texas, Clemson, and… ASU. Five schools that have won national championships in the last two decades … and the Sun Devils.
The maroon and gold addition has proved to be anything but an oddity.
Speaking with Devils Digest on Wednesday, Mathews admitted that Arizona State is his top suitor.
“My attention is just really drawn on ASU,” Mathews said.
If Mathews were to commit to the Sun Devils, it would be the highest-rated Tempe haul since former ASU linebacker Vontaze Burfict, who ranked the ninth-best player of the country in 2009 ASU. Mathews is listed as the 11-highest rated player in the class of 2022, as well as the top safety and player from Louisiana in his class.
The 6-foot-2, 195-pound safety naturally has 17 offers from all the powerhouses of college football. Nonetheless, Arizona State offers something many in the sport can’t.
“A big thing that plays a factor with the coaching staff is that it’s a (predominantly)-black coaching staff,” Matthews said. “I know with my dad being a black male; he has me being passed off to another black father figure. So it’s lighter on his hands, thinking about me leaving and going that far across the world. I feel like if I go there, I have a bright future ahead of me.
“I just feel like I could handle it better looking up to them. I just feel like any coach I look up to, I look up to them as a father, so I feel like looking up to a black father like I already have would be way better. (Especially) knowing that a black father has gone through things that I’ve gone through or will probably go through.”
In the past, recruits and ASU players alike haven’t been shy of their fondness that Arizona State employs African-Americans on its coaching staff in abundance rarely seen in college football. There’s head coach Herm Edwards, defensive coordinator Antonio Pierce, wide receivers coach Prentice Gill, linebackers coach Chris Claiborne, and defensive backs coach Chris Hawkins.
It’s been Hawkins, though, who has acted as Mathews’ main recruiter and developed the tightest bond so far.
“It’s like a big brother-little brother. Me and him talk almost every day,” Mathews said of Hawkins. “There’s like no conversations about football after like the first three. We just get on the phone, chop it up about how each other’s day is going, make some jokes. It’s really cool talking with coach Chris.
“We have a lot in common … (Younger coaches like him) know how, like, kids today think more than old heads. I can click better with a younger coach than an older coach because I know he’s still going through some phases I’m going through. And he’ll have more traits that I have.”
The big difference between Hawkins and Mathews is that the former grew up in Southern California while the latter is spending his early years in Louisiana. For ASU, though, it’s fortunate that geography doesn’t mean much to Mathews.
“It’s not really a big deal. I know my family is proud of me wherever I go,” Mathews said. “I know I’ll have my time to see my family when I get the chance -- so I’ll just use those chances. But, other than that, I’m focused on one goal: getting to the league.”
That’s music to the ears of ASU’s coaches. The Sun Devils’ recruiting pitch significantly revolves around the premise that no other school is better equipped to help players get to the NFL.
With Edwards and Pierce and the program's ‘Pro Model,’ Mathews is confident that if he picked ASU, the Sun Devil coaching staff could help him fulfill his dream.
“I just have to display my work, and I know they have all the connections I need to get to the next level,” he said. “I just have to do my work, my part.”
And what does his work look like? What makes him so special on the field?
“I’d say probably my size and physicality and how versatile I am,” Mathews said. “I’ll play safety in college but more like a down-three safety position. So if (a team needed) I would go play corner or go play nickel down in the box sometimes.”
There are other reasons to think Mathews may choose ASU. He said he loves talking with Herm Edwards. While other schools have also told him he could probably start as a freshman, ASU has shown a willingness to start first-year players. And Mathews said he would be looking for schools with a great mass communication program to help him become a sportscaster after his playing career concludes. With ASU’s prestigious Cronkite School, the Sun Devils check that box, too.
So for now, it’s a waiting game -- and it may be a while.
“I don’t know, really (when I want to commit), Mathews said.
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