Freshman Matthews’ play

Asked to describe the play of safety Tray Matthews after one of the Bulldogs’ preseason practices, Georgia wide receiver Michael Bennett didn’t mince words.

“He’s a freaky athlete,” Bennett said. “He’s unbelievable.”

He needs to be because Georgia is asking a lot of the freshman from Newnan. He’s scheduled to start for the Bulldogs at free safety when they open the season against Clemson on Aug. 31.

Matthews (6-foot, 194 pounds) came to UGA as an early enrollee in January and immediately impressed with his strength and athletic ability. He continued to turn heads with his football instincts and zest for contact during spring practice. By the time the G-Day game was over in April, Matthews was entrenched as the starter at free safety.

“I really don’t know if he’s doing everything correct assignment-wise, but he’s a fundamentally sound football player and tackler,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “He enjoys competing, and he enjoys the physical aspect of the game. When a guy can tackle out in space like he does and just plays with speed and confidence, it’s impressive.”

Whatever the Bulldogs get from Matthews, they can only hope to get elsewhere in the secondary. Georgia will employ first-year starters at four of the five positions this season.