Ryker Mathews was all smiles on the first day of fall camp, and he had every reason to be so. After a great fall camp performance a year ago, Mathews fell to the injury bug and missed this past spring camp.
“Well, I was obviously a little rusty because I haven’t played in a year,” Mathews said. “I think I did alright. I think for a first day of coming off the injury, I think I did really good.”
A year layoff can dull one’s technique. Having to drop back to face a 6-foot-6-inch, 270-pound rushing Ezekiel Ansah off the edge at the snap of the ball can show one exactly how rusty a year layoff has made them.
“Yeah, you learn really quick where you’re at,” said Mathews with a laugh in his voice. “I think right now I’m a little rusty with my technique and footwork and stuff that I haven’t been able to work on for around 10 months.”
In watching Mathews face a baptism by fire on day one, he got stronger and better as practice wore on.
“At first it was hard for me because I was trying to match the speed of the defense while trying to apply technique based on what they were doing, [and it] was tough at first,” Mathews said. “As time wore on I started to get my feet under me and it became more natural for me. I think the more I get to do that, the more I’ll progress in that regard and be up with the rest of the o-line.”
There is chemistry among the first-day starting offensive line, but there still needs to be an improvement in that area. There is no doubt the five up front have the talent to be very good, but to be great, a few things will need to be polished up.
“It was a good line group performance for the first day and I think our chemistry will get better as time wears on, but it was kind of hard to tell exactly where we were at on the first day because it was helmets only,” Mathews said.
So to fully evaluate the line, they will need to be seen in a game-like setting.
“Yeah, we can’t really hit anyone and so it’s kind of hard to tell where the line is at on a higher scale because of that,” Mathews said. “I feel as a unit for the first day of fall camp we did really well as a unit. We’ll get the chemistry down better and right now it’s more about positing with our feet and where our hips are in comparison to the defender, or the defensive end in my case.”
The only thing one can truly evaluate in this setting is how well the offensive line does with position, meaning how well the linemen place themselves in position to defend against the defensive line.
“We can’t take each other to the ground or try and beat each other up, so what we have to look for is positioning and pay attention to the small details and execution,” said Mathews. “It’s all about details and I’m a little rusty in that, but as we continue as a unit we’ll all get better. We have a lot to improve on and when we put the pads on we’ll know more about where we really are overall.”