Year: RS Senior
Hometown: Ashburn, VA
Over here in our UVA bubble, it’s sometimes hard to see what’s happening with other programs. The Hoos, it seems have had a number of walk-ons go on to become fixtures at key positions. Is that the norm elsewhere? I don’t know. This goes back to LB Jon Copper, safety Byron Glasby and WRs Matt Snyder and Ryan Santoro. OL is not usually a position where walk-ons play, simply because there aren’t normally a lot of 300 lb guys walking around grounds.
Jackson Matteo, of course, was a walk-on. Now, to be fair, he was a recruited walk-on. And he had a number of scholarship offers, including one from Temple that he had verbally accepted. That’s not the same thing as the random student who tries out for the team and then ends up as a starter. But then again, Matteo has been starting since he was a freshman. This is also not common for OLs and it might be unheard of for a walk-on OL.
As a freshman in 2013, Matteo started one game at OC after Ross Burbank was injured. A week later he was back on the bench as the coaching staff shuffled the line around. At the time, Matteo was simply too small to handle power rushes from interior DL. At 290 pounds (or more), that isn’t a problem now. As a sophomore, Matteo started at both LT and OC before missing the final 7 games due to a foot injury. Last year, Matteo started every game at center.
Coming out of HS, Matteo was an OT. Most good OLs in HS are used on the outside. He was a 3-star recruit by ESPN and 247 sports, but was a 2-star from Rivals.
Here is Jackson’s Hudl video. He is very mobile for an OL, and he plays with a mean streak. He finishes his blocks. Watch him, in play after play, shove his opponent back 10, 15 even 20 yards from the line of scrimmage. He is used all over the line, playing both inside and outside (again, this is not surprising, as many HS teams move their top OLs around). Matteo is used as a pulling guard, and he’s able to get out in front of the RB, making big blocks to spring his teammates.
There are also a few basketball clips thrown into his highlight video. These show what an athlete he is. They also show him leveling an opponent with a blind-sided screen. Perhaps that is a dirty play, I’m not sure. Who cares? If it was football, it wouldn’t be dirty (though if it were football the guy would be wearing pads).
We know that the previous coaching staff didn’t do very much right. But, Matteo is one place where they took a raw player and turned him into a very good offensive lineman. If Matteo has a good year, he could even get a look from NFL teams, who are always on the lookout for guys who can handle both the physical and mental aspects of playing center.