D.J. Matthews felt confident in how he performed on the practice field and in the spring game.
It was enough of a step forward that coach Willie Taggart felt Matthews was the most improved Florida State player. And so in the offseason, Matthews went to Taggart and asked for his old pee wee jersey number.
In Taggart’s view, single-digit jerseys are reserved for “dudes.” Matthews wanted No. 7 and had earned it.
“It means a lot,” Matthews said. “For him to feel like I can wear this number. I came out. I worked hard. I deserved it. I wore this at Sweetwater. This is for Jacksonville.”
Matthews has been a part of the FSU offense his first two years on campus but he should be stepping into a bigger role as a slot option in 2019. He was a frequent target last fall with 42 receptions but that didn’t translate into big yards after the catch as he had just 382 yards and a touchdown.
But Matthews should excel under new coordinator Kendal Briles’ system. Briles puts an emphasis on receiver alignment and putting the ball in playmakers’ hands, and the sure-handed Matthews could be a beneficiary if he can create some separation from defensive backs.
“I know what I can do,” Matthews said. “Coach Willie (Taggart) knows what I can do. My team knows what I can do. I’ve got to show it now.”
Where has he shown the commitment to improve? Part of it is maturity, lessons learned going into his third college season. There is a strong chemistry with quarterback James Blackman, his roommate.
“That’s like my mama had him and his mama had me,” Matthews said. “That’s my brother. It doesn’t go no further than that. That’s my brother. Ride for him all the time.”
And it’s from the time he’s put in off the field, with Matthews standing on the practice field but motioning to the Moore Center and how he has been more of a regular with coaches.
“In the building, that’s where I matured at,” Matthews said. “Film study, strength and conditioning, all that.”
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