One of the nation’s best made a split-decision on Friday.
It finally hit him.
Jacoby Mathews, the No. 1 player in The Boot and the No. 11 player in the country, committed to the in-state Tigers. LSU edged out Alabama, Clemson, Arizona State, USC, Florida and Texas for the five-star safety from Ponchatoula (La.) High School.
“I’m staying home,” Mathews told Rivals.
The decision comes after a private visit out West for the Arizona State spring game last weekend. Mathews was prepared to commit to the Sun Devils before a recent spree of conversations with the LSU coaching staff. Momentum soared after the Tigers tabbed ace recruiting assistant Mason Smith to its staff and Mathews realized more of the pieces on the way to Baton Rouge this cycle.
Mathews makes for a baker’s dozen for LSU’s 2022 class, which entered the weekend ranked No. 3 in the Rivals national team rankings. Mathews is the fourth defensive back to join the collection along with four-stars Laterrance Welch, JaDarian Rhym and Marcus Scott.
Mathews is the second five-star in the group along with quarterback Walker Howard. Both are among the nine in-state players from The Boot in the Tigers’ haul thus far.
IN HIS OWN WORDS
“I told Coach O this morning, but I told him not to tell anyone of staff. All day they’ve been texting me and coming for me, but I told (new hire) Coach Mason (Smith). As soon as Mason let me know he was getting the job, I was committing.”
“It was hard going into it, but when I thought it, it was the first time I was so sure and so ready to commit. Once I knew, it was easy to call Coach O and tell him I was committing today. He was literally screaming — not saying words; screaming.”
“For me, I was locked in on Arizona State with the minority coaching staff and all having NFL experience. I liked them a lot, but I just started to think about it more and more. It always was gonna come down to them and LSU, but I was thinking more and more, getting on the phone with LSU these last few days and a lot of emotion went into it … and I started thinking about LSU all day.”
“It’s more relief now than anything, but I am excited about my future.”
“I had a lot of Zoom calls with (defensive coordinator) Coach (Daronte) Jones and he showed me how he’d use. Moving forward, I’ll be a defensive back at LSU, anything you can imagine — playing over the top and coming down in the nickel. On certain plays or snaps, maybe come off the edge and blitz the quarterback or rush the quarterback. It’s gonna be a good sight to see.”
“Staying home, Coach Hank would always joke about me going to Alabama or LSU. I used to say: ‘Nah, you’re crazy.’ He’s showed me a lot of love and pushed me as hard as he could. To represent Ponchatoula and my town and how much I excitement I bring to it and the spotlight I put on it, I know they’ll be happy with me staying home. It’s something I didn’t think about with the decision, but it’s something that I love.”
The 6-foot-2, 205-pound Mathews has split time in his prep career on defense before taking over as Hank Tierney’s quarterback last fall.
As an underclassman, Mathews landed early SEC offers from the likes of Alabama and LSU for his ability to patrol the secondary. He also saw action out wide at receiver and behind center. As a junior in 2020, Mathews’ full-time transition to quarterback paid off with 1,000 yards passing and 10 touchdowns along with 600 yards on the ground and another 12 scores as an athlete with rare playmaking ability to direct the Green Wave offense.
Mathews is also a basketball standout and averaged 12.5 points and 6.5 boards a game. At one, he was tabbed as Rivals’ No. 1 athlete, but projects as a strong safety with the ability to cover on the back end of the defense and the size and physicality to play close up the line of scrimmage and make splash plays all over the field.
Even though Mathews made highlight-reel play after play on offense a season ago, his future is as a versatile defender in the SEC. He has incredible speed to track the ball downfield and cover an impressive amount of real estate. He’s long and fast enough to cover 1-on-1 like a cornerback and shadow bigger, faster receivers downfield and over the middle. Mathews is disciplined in coverage and has enough short-area quickness to time his breakups and he isn’t shy about lowering his shoulder on the back end.
Mathews’ experience as a receiver allows him to easily contest balls at their highest point. He’s a solid tackler with enough speed to make plays sideline to sideline or race to the ball-carrier from anywhere on the field.
With his rare blend of size, speed and athleticism — not to mention elite coverage skills— Mathews could be a versatile strong safety or even grow into a safety/linebacker hybrid.