South Florida is known to produce some of the nation’s finest skill players.
College coaches from around the country flock to Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties to find great running backs, defensive backs, wide receivers and quarterbacks. Though it doesn’t get as much publicity for it, the region also produces a bevy of quality linemen each year.
South Carolina is hoping that it’s found such a player from the southern tip of the Sunshine State in Park Vista (Fla.) standout Mike Matulis, a talented offensive tackle. He’s been firmly committed to the Gamecocks since last summer.
The 6-foot-6, 270-pounder played in Florida’s North-South All-Star game and would have participated in the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl in Myrtle Beach in December if not for an injury.
“Mike has been our starting left tackle for the last two years,” Park Vista coach Brian Dodds said. “He’s been a mainstay. Mike’s an extremely physical and aggressive player when he’s out there. I think that’s why South Carolina is interested in him.
“I think he’s going to end up about 6-7, 320 by the time he finishes at South Carolina. He’s just such a fighter. He won’t put up with anything from the defensive line. I think he’s got a great shot of doing a lot of good things. He’s got every attribute you’d want from a linemen going in to play big-time football.”
Matulis is a long, lean athlete who has the build to potentially become an elite college tackle. Because of his length, he looks a lot like a tight end right now. That will change, Dodds said, when he gets into USC’s strength and conditioning program and begins to put on weight.
Park Vista was an I-formation, running-oriented team, throwing mostly off of play action. Most teams run behind dominant right tackles, but Matulis cleared the road for standout tailback Tre Mason, who is being recruited by a number of BCS-conference powers, including Auburn.
“Anytime Mike can get in a stance and come off the ball [as a run blocker], he’s going to be much more comfortable,” Dodds said.
Matulis is coming off a disappointing senior season that was riddled with injuries.
In week two, he suffered a bruised knee that took three weeks to heal. Out of playing shape, he was never able to get back in top form. He also suffered an ankle sprain near the end of the regular season, an injury that limited him in the North-South game and kept him out of the All-American Bowl.
He’s spent the last few weeks getting back into elite shape and preparing for the tests he’ll face in the SEC.
“There is a lot of stuff I have to work on,” said Matulis, who has limited experience in a zone-blocking scheme. “I’m not the best player, but I’ll work to be the best player. I give it my all. I’ve got to get better about coming out of my stance and my hand placement.
“I’ll play wherever they will put me, but I’m pretty sure that’s at tackle. They like that I’m aggressive and work hard. I think I can be molded into a good SEC tackle.”