After the Capital One Bowl in January 2008, Wolverine fans had Greg Mathews pegged as the next top Michigan wideout.
His seven catches for 62 yards made it hard not to get excited about the wide receiver hanging in the shadows of Wolverine standouts Mario Manningham and Adrian Arrington. And when those two left early for the NFL, Mathews was left standing in the spotlight.
But under new Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez, Mathews found himself as a lone veteran in an offense run by inexperienced quarterbacks. Struggling to find his role and hampered by injury early in the season, he finished 2008 with 38 catches, second on the team behind then-freshman slot receiver Martavious Odoms.
A year later, it didn’t look like much had changed.
This season has been somewhat of a bust for Mathews. He had the game-winning catch against Notre Dame, but overall, his performance was far removed from the one he showed in the Capital One Bowl. Entering Michigan’s matchup against Delaware State on Oct. 17, Mathews had tallied seven catches the whole season — the same number the Orlando native had in his hometown back on New Year’s Day in 2008.
Just 86 total yards at the season’s midway point, a huge fumble against Iowa on a kickoff return and a dropped touchdown pass against Michigan State left many wondering what happened to Greg Mathews.
“It’s definitely my responsibility to catch the ball any time the quarterback gets it near, so I take the responsibility,” Mathews said following Michigan’s 26-20 overtime loss to Michigan State.
But it looks like Mathews has finally found his groove, even though last Saturday’s outcome against Penn State wasn’t what the Wolverines would have liked. He was freshman quarterback Tate Forcier’s favorite target, and tied a career high with seven catches.
Rodriguez hinted that Mathews’ change in stride was very much mental and that now is an ideal time for him to improve.
“Sometimes in your senior year, you see the end kind of coming to the end of your college career,” Rodriguez said. “Sometimes you say, ‘Now’s the time for me to try to do even more.’ ”
For Mathews to do more isn’t an issue of talent — he’s proved he has it on a number of occasions. Rather, it’s more Mathews venturing into areas he has avoided during his career. Rodriguez said the coaches remarked during Tuesday’s practice how the typically soft-spoken wideout was excelling and stepping out of his shell.
“He even took some more vocal leadership role and was having some fun,” Rodriguez said. “Greg’s an experienced guy that if he can play well and make some big plays for us, he can lift us offensively. I’m really looking for big things from him the rest of the season.”
Cissoko update: Boubacar Cissoko’s dismissal hasn’t become any less mysterious. Rodriguez would not elaborate further on Cissoko’s dismissal yesterday, restating the cornerback’s boot came as a “violation of team rules.”
“As I told the team, all I do is enforce the decisions that they make,” Rodriguez said. “As a coach, that’s our responsibility. … As I explained to the team, it’s a privilege — not a right — to be in the program. Both on and off the field, there are certain rules they have to follow, and players understand that. It’s never pleasant to have to do this.”
Thomas Wilcher, Cissoko’s coach at Detroit Cass Technical High School, said the dismissal was a “combination of missing study tables, missing class and missing workouts.” Prior to Rodriguez’s announcement Tuesday, Cissoko had been suspended for two games earlier this season.
Wilcher said he believes Cissoko will transfer. Rodriguez would not comment on the specifics of a new destination for Cissoko, giving his standard response, “I only talk about the players that play for Michigan.” But he did have some words of advice for the sophomore.
“We certainly hope that not for just Boubacar, but anybody else that’s been dismissed from the program, that you try to help them in the future if they learned their lesson and do the right things,” Rodriguez said. “That will be the case if he gets right academically, does what he is supposed to do. Hopefully, he can continue his career elsewhere.”
Injury update: Odoms did not practice Monday or Tuesday due to a swollen knee he suffered against Penn State. Rodriguez said he responded well to treatment and was expected to practice yesterday. … Senior tailback Brandon Minor was limited this week because of a chronic high-ankle sprain. … Redshirt sophomore wide receiver Junior Hemingway practiced full contact Tuesday after tweaking his knee last Saturday.