It's been an interesting off season for Auburn, as the Tigers seem to have become a popular destination for players that have chosen to transfer from other schools, and not just in football. The most recent transfer came a bit unexpectedly, in the form of a safety from Georgia. Tray Matthews isn't just any safety, though. As most Auburn fans will remember, Matthews was the defensive back that helped keep the Tigers' dream season alive when quarterback Nick Marshall (also a former Georgia transfer) threw up a Hail Mary pass to Ricardo Louis. During that play, Matthews was able to break up the pass, but the ball went straight up into the air, landing in the soft hands of Louis.
Despite that miscue, Matthews played a solid season for Georgia as a freshman who started six games for the Bulldogs. At the end of the season, Matthews had accounted for 36 tackles, one interception, and recovered one fumble. Against Auburn, Matthews had one of his best games statistically, recording 12 tackles for the night. Then, on March 17, Matthews was one of four Georgia players that were arrested and charged with multiple accounts of theft by deception. Basically, they received double payments for checks that were issued by the Georgia athletic department. In addition to that, Matthews apparently had a classroom disruption, which seemed to finally be the last straw for Bulldogs head coach Mark Richt, as he dismissed Matthews from the program.
Now, looking for a second chance, Matthews has found a new home at Auburn, who has sort of developed the "second chance team" label. Auburn coach Gus Malzahn obviously sees potential to turn Matthews around or he wouldn't have given him this opportunity otherwise. As far as how much of an impact Matthews will have, the immediate answer is none. Having to sit out his first year at Auburn, the former four-star safety is eligible to play during the 2015 season.
Taking a look at the Tigers would-be roster (barring transfers, etc.) for the 2015 season, there will be a total of five safeties (not counting Matthews himself) with only one of them as underclassmen (Markell Boston) including the incoming class of 2014, so it's not impossible to say that Matthews could certainly compete for a starting job in a year. The recruiting class of 2015 will bring in two incoming safeties, both of which are four-stars (Jordan Colbert and Ben Edwards). So while Coach Malzahn is not going to just hand the job to Matthews, who impressed the Georgia coaching staff during spring practices and at the spring game with his improvement, there is a great shot at Matthews being able to fight for the starting safety spot. Whether he is able to come out on top will probably be decided if he can manage to stay clear from trouble in the upcoming season and beyond.
If you need any sort of verification of his skills, just check out his highlight tape from his first season at Georgia, or from his days in high school:
Ian Cuevas is a senior editor at Land-Grant Holy Land and an intern for SB Nation's college sports coverage. His work has been linked at ESPN, featured at SBNation.com, and showcased elsewhere online.