After transferring from the University of Georgia at the end of the 2020 season, D’Wan Mathis wanted to play for a coaching staff that valued him equally on and off the field.
“It was definitely a tough decision leaving behind all the work I had put in there, but coming here, I felt like the coaching staff was definitely a family feel,” said Mathis, a redshirt-freshman quarterback for Temple University football. “The way the team is gelling right now, I feel like it is the best decision I could have possibly made for myself going forward.”
During spring practices, Mathis is adding a new dimension to Temple’s offense with his running ability while competing for Temple’s starting quarterback position for the 2021 season.
The former four-star recruit’s speed and quickness gives Temple’s offense a different way to threaten defenses than in previous years. Former starting quarterback Anthony Russo, who transferred to Michigan State University on Dec. 16, 2020, was known as a “pocket passer” but was limited in his running ability.
Mathis didn’t get a chance to showcase his running ability at Georgia, but he rushed for 305 yards in his senior season at Oak Park High School in Oak Park, Michigan.
“[Mathis] adds a lot to the table because of that ability to run,” said redshirt-junior wide receiver Jadan Blue. “He’s super fast and super quick. The kid is gonna be accurate and the arm is gonna be there. That’s the thing, it’s not just a running threat for him. I’m so happy that he has that ability to run and extend plays. That’s really going to help us.”
Mathis’ athleticism in the open field gives Temple an opportunity to use different blocking schemes that include not having the tight end block a defensive end and utilizing more zone read and power read plays, said Mike Uremovich, co-offensive coordinator and tight ends coach.
“The ability of the quarterback to run allows us to do a few things different in the run game,” Uremovich added. “Obviously, there are some things protection-wise, getting on the edge and having a mobile guy back there creates some different opportunities for us protection-wise.”
The Owls struggled to run the football last season. They averaged 143.1 rushing yards per game, which ranked 10th in The American Athletic Conference.
Last season at Georgia, Mathis only played in four games and recorded 89 passing yards, one touchdown and three interceptions, despite being named the team’s starter during the preseason.
Before Mathis can start at Temple, he needs to learn a completely new offensive system.
“The number one thing he has to do this spring is just get comfortable with the offense,” said head coach Rod Carey. “All the physical abilities are there. He can throw, he can run, the whole deal.”
Temple is hoping to name a starting quarterback for the 2021 season before spring practice is over, but the battle could carry into fall practices, Carey added.
Temple’s coaching staff is impressed with how hard Mathis is working to learn the offense, as he frequently spends extra time watching film, Uremovich said.
“I really like his ability, but I really like him as a kid,” Uremovich added. “I really like the amount of time he’s up in the office. I like the amount of extra film he’s watched. He’s a kid I like coaching.”
Mathis believes his experience at Georgia is helping him learn Temple’s offense, he said.
“I’m trying to be me, but I will say being here in the spring two years ahead is definitely different,” Mathis added. “I’m more comfortable. I know what to do. I know the down and distance. I’m always aware of the situation.”