Auburn coach Gus Malzahn gave defensive back Tray Matthews a clean bill of health at his post-practice press conference Tuesday night.
“He's full throttle,” Malzahn said. “He has been back doing limited stuff up to this point, but today he was full throttle and looked good out there running around.”
A hamstring injury limited the sophomore’s participation for much of the team’s training camp.
While Matthews is eager to show what he can do for the Tigers after redshirting last season, he understands the coaching staff being patient with the injury. He battled hamstring issues during his freshman year at Georgia.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Ledger-Enquirer
“We have a good training staff down here and they’ve been working with me,” Matthews said. “I’ve actually been doing very well, it was just getting a little tight here and there. (Secondary) Coach T-Rob was like, ‘Oh no, we can’t have those problems,’ so he sat me out for a little bit just so I can be ready.”
The former 5-star prep standout went to Newnan High School, and started his collegiate career with the Bulldogs. He started six games as a freshman, but was dismissed from the team in the offseason following a pair of off the field incidents.
He quickly announced plans to transfer to Auburn, and sat out last year under the NCAA’s transfer rules.
His Auburn debut will take place against Louisville in the Georgia Dome, where he played in multiple all-star games during his high school career.
“I’m just ready to play football again,” Matthews said.
Matthews is expected to be one of the starters at safety in a revamped secondary under first-year defensive coordinator Will Muschamp. The 6-foot-1, 213-pounder expects to set the tone for the defense with his bruising style of play.
“Coach Muschamp emphasizes on physicality and we’re bringing that to the table more and more every day,” Matthews said. “You know, now that I’m back, I’m trying to bring it every day as well. I couldn’t really bring it these couple days, but now that I’m back, I’m going to be the one that’s bringing the boom every practice and every game.”
Last year, Auburns’ secondary gave up the third most passing yards in the SEC.
Those statistics don’t mean much to Matthews considering the addition of fellow transfer Blake Countess, and a number of talented underclassman.
“We have a lot of young corners and we have a safety in Tim Irving who is stepping up and doing his thing,” Matthews said. “We have a lot of young guys that will help us out a lot and we need depth.”
Matthews said Countess, who has 30 Division 1 starts under his belt, is picking the defense up quickly despite only three months with the team.
“We can make the secondary a great one if everyone buys into the program and keeps doing what we’re doing, we can definitely be something special this year,” Matthews said.