Fresno State staff impresses juco safety

Fresno State picked up its most recent commit Saturday evening when strong safety Rodney Mathews was on his official visit. He was impressed by the academics and campus, but what made him chose the Bulldogs over his other FBS offer, Illinois, was the coaching staff.

He knew coaches would be important when he began speaking with schools, but he was absolutely floored by Fresno State head coach Tim DeRuyter and secondary coach Tim McDonald.

McDonald invited Mathews onto the field with him during the Bulldogs’ bowl practice to take in different schemes and covers, while also discussing McDonald’s history with the position.

“He was an amazing safety at USC and he played in the league and six Pro Bowls,” Mathews said. “He looks like he could still play. He’s a great coach and the talks that I’ve had with him so far have been enlightening. I can really see myself learning a lot from him.”

It will be a whirlwind process for Mathews, a 6-foot, 195-pound defensive back. Mathews committed Saturday evening while on an official visit and is expected to sign his letter of intent on Wednesday. He will enroll in January and will begin spring ball with the Bulldogs in February.

He could likely break into the two-deep as the Bulldogs are losing three safeties from this year’s squad, including fifth-year senior strong safety Phillip Thomas, who leads the team in tackles, tackles for losses, sacks and interceptions.

“[Citrus College coach Ron Ponciano] helped me out with scheme and formations and he was telling me that some of the plays we actually took from them, so there will be formations that I’ve already learned and executed on the field,” Mathews said. “So I can’t wait [for spring football]. I’m so pumped up for that.”

This season, Mathews tallied 92 tackles (4.5 for losses), three interceptions and six pass break-ups en route to being named first-team all-conference and all-state this season. He plans to major in communications.