PSU Coach James Franklin has ‘Man Crush’ on Eagles 2nd Round Pick Jordan Matthews


Sep 14, 2013; Columbia, SC, USA; Vanderbilt Commodores wide receiver Jordan Matthews (87) watches the final moments against the South Carolina Gamecocks in the second half at Williams-Brice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

With the dust now settled from last week’s draft, the early returns on the Eagles seven-player class are pouring in from all angles. Though there are some outliers, the consensus is that wide receiver Jordan Matthews, who the Eagles moved up in the 2nd round for, is most prepared to make an early impact for the defending NFC East Champions. The 21-year old from the SEC has the 8th best odds at winning the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year, according to Bovada, and with the Eagles undergoing substantial changes at the wide receiver position, much is to be expected out of Matthews.

Matthews developed into the impressive prospect that he is under the tutelage of Penn State coach James Franklin. Franklin, who coached Matthews over his final three seasons at Vanderbilt, has since moved on from his stop in the SEC to take on the responsibility of continuing Penn State’s return to prominence. When Franklin was in charge at Vanderbilt, Matthews compiled 247 receptions, amassed 3,570 receiving yards, and hauled in 20 of his 24 career touchdown catches. Needless to say, Franklin’s offense was able to bring out the best in Matthews and the wideout returned the favor, making his head coach look awfully smart at times.

As he acclimates himself to the Penn State community, which includes the greater Philadelphia area for certain, Franklin offered a unique opportunity to shed some more light on perhaps the most high-profile piece of the Eagles draft class. Tuesday, Franklin made an appearance on SportsRadio WIP”s afternoon show with Anthony Gargano and Rob Ellis to lend his insight on perhaps his most prolific player to enter the NFL ranks to date.

"“Yeah, I got a man crush on that guy, He’s the whole package. He graduated from Vanderbilt with an economics degree in three and a half years. He’s the all-time leading receiver in SEC history, single season and career. Everybody in that conference knew he was our play maker and we were going to get him the ball and he still would have 10 to 12 catches every game in a good conference, and everybody was game planning to stop him. So I think that kind of tells you about the guy.”"

Franklin’s observations highlight a notable aspect of Matthews that could end up resulting in higher yields from the 2nd round pick. With all due respect to Jordan Rodgers and Austyn Carta-Samuels, better known as the two starting quarterbacks for Vanderbilt the last three seasons, Matthews didn’t exactly have a marquee passer slinging it around the field and opening up opportunities for him. Much like Calvin Johnson, who made mediocre-at-best quarterbacks look like All-Americans at Georgia Tech, Matthews was the focal point of opposing defenses every time he stepped on the field. Though perhaps not to the sensational level that Johnson did, Matthews was still able to excel and dominate at times in a conference that produced 11 1st round picks in 2014. He will need to continue to show the type of tenacity and persistence that allowed him to put up record-setting numbers in the face of tight coverage, but it is exciting to see what Matthews can do with a more stable quarterback situation.

Franklin also weighed in on another quality that attracted the Eagles to his protegé. No, it had nothing to do with Matthews’ relation to Jerry Rice. Instead, Matthews was one of several members of the Eagles 2014 draft class who was as impressive off the field as he is on it. Franklin was more than happy to shower more praise upon the receiver.

"“I recommend you strongly to get him on your show as soon as you possibly can because the guy is as charismatic and articulate as any guy you are going to be around, “He’s driven and he’s passionate to be great and it won’t surprise me if he doesn’t find a big role on that team this year, because that’s just who he is. I mean, he wants to be the best.”"

The 2014 Draft may not have produced the type of fireworks that some expected out of a Chip Kelly affair. Frankly, it might be something to get used to as we have only witnessed two drafts during Kelly’s tenure in Philadelphia. Many have deemed the 2014 haul as a solid group with several members primed to make an impact in various capacities. More than the rest of the selections, including first round pick Marcus Smith, Jordan Matthews has the chance to put an early stamp on his NFL career as part of the team’s receiver rotation. The latest endorsement, from the man who helped him elevate his game to a level worthy of NFL consideration, seems to hint that Matthews could end up being a major steal in the second round. Few people know Matthews as a man and a player like Franklin does. Let’s hope that counts for something and the new coach of the Nittany Lions isn’t just trying to expand the lens of his recruiting pitch to the fans of Philadelphia.