Clairton wide receiver Mathews in position to excel
Junior Aaron Mathews will play only one position this season.
This could give opposing coaches in Class A a big — and tall — problem.
The 6-foot-5 Mathews, a part-time quarterback as a sophomore, will focus on playing wide receiver while attempting to help Clairton return to Heinz Field.
“We have a lot of options on offense, a lot of different people we want touching the ball,” Clairton coach Wayne Wade said. “But I'd be crazy if I didn't make him a big, big part of this offense. And we know receiver is his natural position.”
Clairton found itself in transition last season. The Bears fielded one of the youngest teams in school history.
The post-Tyler Boyd era wasn't exactly disastrous — Clairton went 9-2 and advanced to the WPIAL semifinals — but anything other than a WPIAL championship isn't deemed acceptable for the team that has won six WPIAL titles and four PIAA titles during the past eight years.
As a sophomore, Mathews was forced to play quarterback and wideout. The Clairton coaching staff believes it has a superstar that can be the foundation of a great team, and it believes wideout is the position he must play.
“With this new spread offense we're running, teams are going to have to respect him more than ever,” Wade said. “You really won't be able to play man-on-man defense against us because of him. But if you play zone, you're playing into what we want because there are fewer defenders in the box. So, you pick your poison.”
Mathews is easily one of the WPIAL's most coveted players.
Although he has two years of high school remaining, Mathews has received scholarship offers from Pitt, Temple and Toledo.
All of those schools picture Mathews as a wideout in college.
“And that's why I'm so excited about this season,” Mathews said. “I know I'm playing wide receiver in college. Everyone who is recruiting me wants me there. So now I can show what I can do playing that position all the time.”
The Bears have showcased no shortage of talent at wideout. Trenton Coles, Terrish Webb and Titus Howard were wide receivers at Clairton before heading to Pitt.
Boyd was primarily a running back at Clairton and has emerged as a star wideout at Pitt.
Wade believes Mathews belongs in the same class.
“No question,” he said. “He's just different. Style-wise, he's like Trenton. But he's got better hands than Trenton. And his size is more like Titus, but he's more athletic than him.”
Scouts are enamored with Mathews. Adam Friedman, the mid-Atlantic recruiting analyst for Rivals.com, gave the Tribune-Review a gushing review of Mathews in May.
“His ball skills are tremendous,” Friedman said. “As he develops his footwork and route running, it's going to be very difficult for any defensive back to really guard him in the open field. We see him as being a major Division I prospect.”
While playing wideout clearly represents Mathews' future, the junior also could be a force defensively. He will start at free safety for the Bears, his long arms making him a natural to defend in the middle of the field.
“You'll see him play at defensive end, too,” Wade said. “I feel like he can be a major asset there, in fact.”
There were only 22 players on the field during Clairton's Wednesday practice, as about five players were out with injuries. Such a tiny group, though, didn't seem so small because of Mathews' presence.
“He's special,” Wade said. “He reminds me of Plaxico Burress, honestly. You just don't see that kind of speed and that kind of athleticism on a person this big. He's going to be featured heavily. He's special.”