Matthews came to USC as a walk on but eventually earned his scholarship. As a freshman in 2005, he was a little used reserve at linebacker but did play on special teams. A year later, Matthews had 15 tackles, 1.5 for loss, one sack and was named co-special teams player of the year for the Trojans. The depth at linebacker for USC kept him in a reserve role as a junior during the 2007 season, but he again earned special teams player of the year, while tallying 17 tackles, three for loss with two forced fumbles and two blocked field goals. Matthews finally got consistent playing time as a senior, starting at end and being a force off the edge. He was named to the All Pac 10 2nd team after finishing with career highs of 51 tackles, nine for loss, and 4.5 sacks.
Matthews was a late bloomer but is not a one year wonder. He has the talent to play on Sundays and carries a lot of upside. He has a very solid package of overall tools. He has good size, is as tough as they come, and has excellent bloodlines. He also has surprising speed and uses that speed to be a force as a pass rusher. Up until this year he was just a special teams standout, but he became a playmaker on defense as a senior. He is relentless off the edge and his talent could make him an ideal fit for a 3-4 defense.
Matthews is very good at making plays in front of him and near the line of scrimmage, but he needs work dropping back and covering. His aggression can cause him to bite and move forward when he needs to drop deeper, and he is a bit stiff when asked to cover a tight end. He also does not have a ton of experience on defense, due mainly to the depth in the program at his position.
The ride Matthews has been on is amazing. He started as a 200lb walk on linebacker, and emerged as a starter during his senior season. That was only the beginning. Since the end of the season, Matthews has seen his stock rise from potential third rounder to potential first rounder. At both the Senior Bowl and combine, Matthews blew teams away with his blend of skills. He has a classic linebacker frame with impressive closing speed, and is a quick learner. Matthews should thrive as a pass rusher in a 3-4, but projects well in a 4-3 as well. Depending on how early the run on linebackers go, Matthews could hear his name called as high as the early 20's but he shouldn’t last long in the second round if he makes it there.