Woodlawn DB Jordan Matthews shocks recruiting world with Tennessee commitment

Woodlawn DB Jordan Matthews shocks recruiting world with Tennessee commitment

Jordan Matthews thanked a long list of family, teammates, coaches and other supporters Monday afternoon, then motioned to the back of a jam-packed and loud Woodlawn High gymnasium.

“Y’all ready!?” he smiled, then emphasized, “Are y’all ready!? Bring it in, bring it in!”

An armed East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Department officer brought a large metal case the 80-plus feet up a center aisle between hundreds of people on the hardwood court and to the entire Matthews family at the heavily decorated purple-and-white table.

The Panthers’ senior standout unlocked the container to reveal first a bright, glowing light and then an orange hat a few shades brighter than many coaches or fans anticipated.

Jordan Matthews speaks to reporters after announcing his commitment to the University of Tennessee.

“As you all know we’ve been to Texas about five times now, so everybody kind of guessed it was Texas,” he explained following the dramatic commitment announcement. “But I had a change of heart. And I feel like when I went to Tennessee, it was my best visit. And I feel like in my heart that was the best school for me and my priorities for picking a school, and ultimately it came down to it.”

The highly ranked 6-foot-1, 180-pound cornerback had left all three of his finalists in the Volunteers, the Longhorns and Michigan all sweating and uncertain as he headed into the live ceremony.

“Maaaan, you had everybody fooled!” laughed Woodlawn coach Marcus Randall, admitting himself in that count as well.

Matthews, a consensus four-star and top-200 prospect nationally, chose Tennessee out of a list of 33 total scholarship offers.

His parents, Roshaun and Nicole, and siblings, Joshua and Lauryn — among the few in the know — joined him in unveiled Tennessee shirts and hats to celebrate the moment.

As with the commitment’s secrecy and execution, the timing of the event had been a carefully threaded scheduling needle to ensure the entire Woodlawn High student body and Matthews family would have the opportunity to attend.

“My team and my family, of course, are two of the most important factors that got me to where I am today,” Jordan Matthews said. “So without them being there, I felt like there would’ve been a piece missing. So I’ve got to thank those people. That was really important to me.”

As was sewing up his recruiting process prior to kicking off his senior season for the Panthers.

“Me and my parents, from when I first started being recruited, I always wanted to commit before my senior season,” he said. “Just to have it less hectic during the season and more focused to win a state championship with my brothers.”

Matthews became the fifth member of Woodlawn’s talented 2023 football class to commit to a college entering the season.

He joins running back Jay’veon Haynes, offensive lineman Roy Brackins III, quarterback Rickie Collins and defensive back Dezaray “D.J.” Delmore Jr. in their pledges to Louisiana (Lafayette), Louisiana Tech, LSU and Southeast Missouri State, respectively.

“It’s been great,” he said. “We’ve always known since our middle school days, in eighth grade when we all went to the same middle school, that we were gonna be legendary wherever we went. And we became more of ourselves and all started to get noticed everywhere. It’s been great.”

Woodlawn DB Dezaray ‘DJ’ Delmore Jr. Commits to SEMO Football Entering Senior Season

Woodlawn DB Dezaray ‘DJ’ Delmore Jr. Commits to SEMO Football Entering Senior Season

The Woodlawn High football team continued to celebrate good news Thursday with its fourth college commitment leading up to the season.

Dezaray “D.J.” Delmore Jr. pledged to Southeast Missouri State’s 2023 recruiting class.

“I wanted to make the decision because I felt like it was the right decision for me,” he said. “I kind of felt like I was ready to go ahead and get this recruiting process over with before the season. But really I just felt like I was ready to make the decision because the relationship with them, you couldn’t ask for anything better.”

The 5-foot-11, 175-pound defensive back spoke repeatedly of late about the connections he felt with the RedHawks’ staff.

“The first thing that stood out was the relationship that they wanted to build with me and the relationship that I did build with the coaches,” Delmore said. “I couldn’t ask for anything more. They really showed interest in me, and they didn’t just talk good about me. They actually talked to me about life, and I could talk to ‘em about anything just about. I just felt comfortable, so it was a good fit relationship-wise.”

That fit extended onto the field where he and the coaches feel the program’s defensive scheme, including its heavy reliance on five defensive backs with a versatile nickel, will make for a perfect marriage with his talents and skillset.

“I was up there watching film with them, and they run a defense where they have five DBs on the field most of the time,”  Delmore said. “So the coach tells me all the time I would fit perfectly in their defense. And I went and checked it out for myself, and it looks like they run five DBs, run good defense and are a pretty good team. They look like they’re the top team in their conference and a place where I feel like I can fit well.”

Delmore joins running back Jay’veon Haynes, offensive tackle Roy Brackins III and — less than 24 hours earlier — quarterback Rickie Collins as members of the Panthers’ decorated senior class to have named college destinations.

Haynes, Brackins and Collins are scheduled to attend Louisiana (Lafayette), Louisiana Tech and LSU, respectively.

And Delmore’s friend in the defensive backfield, cornerback Jordan Matthews, will announce his decision Monday between Texas, Tennessee and Michigan.

“It’s been an honor coming up with my teammates,” he said. “We’ve been at this thing for a long time. So I’m blessed to be with the group I’m with, because nine times out of 10, if it wasn’t for them, I probably wouldn’t be the player I am.”

Each college announcement — in many cases by design — locks another Panthers’ focus more completely on the group’s final high school season together.

The 2023 class has been instrumental in helping the program make major positive strides the past few seasons with historically notable victories, but still feels unsatisfied and hungry this fall.

“We’ve still got work to do,” Delmore said. “Our goal still hasn’t been met. We’re trying to make it to the state title. And in order to do that, we’ve just got to continue to stay focused, keep everybody motivated everyday, keep the energy up at practice and keep getting better and take it game by game.”

Woodlawn QB Rickie Collins staying home with LSU commitment

Woodlawn QB Rickie Collins staying home with LSU commitment

Rickie Collins #reconsidered last week, and now he’s staying home.

Woodlawn High’s senior quarterback announced Wednesday evening his commitment to LSU in the midst of an overflowing Mason’s Grill just 1.5 miles up Jefferson Highway from school.

“It’s just a blessing to be able to say I can play in front of my hometown,” Collins said. “It’s always been a dream to be able to play in Tiger Stadium and be able to play in purple and gold, so we’re finally just being able to turn it into a reality.”

The 6-foot-3, 185-pound passer is now scheduled to become the Panthers’ first football player in decades to sign scholarship paperwork with the hometown program when he’s able to do so in December.

His mother, Precious Collins, couldn’t contain her tears or big smiles as the celebration event she’d coordinated for the past week reached its peak.

“Oh, I’m a nervous wreck,” she admitted. “I’m a ball of emotions, but excited… Staying close to home for me is a big deal. I wanted Rickie to go where he was comfortable, and ultimately he decided to make home home, so that’s a blessing for me.”

As much as Rickie grew up admiring the Tigers across town, that destination was far from given during his recruiting process.

LSU initially extended a scholarship offer in the summer of 2021 under then-coach Ed Oregon and the previous staff after watching him and the Panthers torch through the program’s annual high school 7-on-7 tournament.

But a drawn-out coaching change over the course of much of the season and a hard charge by Purdue had both LSU and Rickie looking elsewhere for much of their respective processes.

Collins committed to the Boilermakers in early October and remained so for the better part of 10 months even as LSU and others ramped up their overtures.

But the consistency of Purdue’s contact waned following the departure of special teams coordinator Marty Biagi — a staffer whose Louisiana ties had helped expand inroads in the state — for Ole Miss.

And the rapport with and prioritization by the dream school as other dominoes in the class continued to fall just across town became impossible to ignore.

New quarterbacks coach Joe Sloan, who had initially extended an offer to Collins at Louisiana Tech early in 2021, led the charge, with Baton Rouge native and offensive line coach Brad Davis, offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock and head coach Brian Kelly also getting involved.

“It’s been good relationship, especially with coach Sloan, like you said, and coach Davis and coach Denbrock and coach Kelly,” Collins said. “So ultimately the people I have to work the closest with, I have great relationships with those people.”

That group won’t coach its first game together until Sept. 4 against Florida State, another program that heavily pursued Collins this summer.

But he said he’s heard and seen enough to trust in the vision and execution ahead.

“I just see the change in culture,” he said. “And I know what coach Kelly can do, and I know what coach Denbrock can do. And I know how coach Sloan can produce and make a quarterback better. And I know coach Davis is gonna get the best five on the field to block.

“So just having confidence in them, I just have that trust that they’re going to do their job, and they trust that I’m gonna come in and earn my stripes and do what mine.”

Collins was eager to sew up his recruitment before his final high school season as he and his decorated senior class eye program history.

Running back Jay’veon Haynes and offensive tackle Roy Brackins committed earlier this year to Louisiana (Lafayette) and Louisiana Tech, respectively. Defensive back Dezaray “D.J.” Delmore Jr. shared his pledge to Southeast Missouri State on Thursday, and cornerback Jordan Matthews will announce his own plans Monday between finalists Texas, Tennessee and Michigan.

And other classmates may not be particularly far behind.

“It feels good ultimately just because I can get it out the way and focus on the ultimate goal of getting to the state title game and winning it,” Collins said. “We’re just trying to take it one game at a time and go 1-0 every week And getting the college decision out the way early, I can do that and focus on the season.”

The quarterback said he doesn’t plan to take any other visits and that his recruitment won’t include any further developments.

“It’s a done deal,” he said. “Closed off. I’m locked in. I don’t really have anything else or anywhere else set up. It’s just going to LSU, and I’m going ride-or-die.”

Collins joins LSU’s 2023 class on the immediate heels of Catholic (Baton Rouge) wide receiver Shelton

Sampson Jr., whose commitment announcement Saturday he traveled across town to attend.

And he echoed his high school rival and 7-on-7 teammate’s now-trending sentiments of “Why not LSU?” four days later as he looked at the way the Tigers continue to add in-state pieces to their national heater to open July.

“There’s a lot of great players here,” Collins said. “So why not keep ’em home and play for the home state?”

Collins became the 19th member of the cohort and sixth from Louisiana, including the past three prospects to announce: St. Augustine offensive tackle Tyree Adams to end July and now Sampson and Collins this week.

Running backs Trey Holly of Union Parish and Kaleb Jackson of Liberty Magnet and Archbishop Rummel defensive back Ashton Stamps made their moves earlier in the summer.

And Collins has another capital area standout in mind as the next addition.

“Kylin,” Collins said quickly, referencing Zachary safety Kylin Jackson, who this week delayed a previously scheduled Monday commitment announcement to Saturday. “We’ve got to keep Kylin home.

He’s a great football player. If we can get him, I think that will be big to help cap out the class, along with some other people. But I think that’s who we’re pushing for now.”

Sampson and Jackson both joined the large contingent of Panthers who joined the celebration on Wednesday.

All the hometown support made clear impacts on Collins.

In addition to the relationships with the coaches and potential future teammates at LSU, he smiled when asked about a recent social media push to land him in purple and gold.

Players and prospects spearheaded a “#RickieReconsidered” campaign on Twitter, which quickly exploded with more fan support.

“Actually they posted it before I even decommitted, so I was like, ‘Come on, guys,’” he said. “But it showed that they really wanted me. No other school did something like that. So the time that they took the time out and made it a trending hashtag, it was like, ‘(Wow),’ the power that they have.”

Rickie Collins, Jordan Matthews Scheduled for Historic Commitment Announcements

Rickie Collins, Jordan Matthews Scheduled for Historic Commitment Announcements

Two Woodlawn seniors will announce during the next six days their commitments to sign scholarship offers with two of the nation’s premier college programs.

Both announcements will be broadcast live via the school’s YouTube channel.

“I think it’s a big deal for the program obviously now to be getting a lot of national attention not just for those guys, but for our school and our team,” coach Marcus Randall said. “That’s a great thing for us overall. Those guys are going to have their day, and then hopefully they can be able to lock in and we can go win this championship.”

Collins has been a hot name on the recruiting trail for a year and a half now — with 22 offers — but particularly with pushes the past month and a half from hometown LSU and nearby Florida State.

The 6-foot-3, 185-pound passer ranks unanimously as a four-star prospect among the nation’s 200 best in his class at any position across the major recruiting outlets, including as high as No. 103 according to Rivals.

He has been a three-sport standout for the Panthers, including four years leading the football team’s offense, and a finalist in this past summer’s Elite 11 as one of the nation’s best players at his position.

“It’s really just a blessing and a good situation to be in,” Collins said. “The opportunity is big just to be able to have everyone out there, my family, coaches, family friends and everybody who was with me on the journey and in my corner through it all. It’s a tough decision because it’s long-term, but it’s just a blessing.”

Matthews has narrowed down a list of 33 scholarship offers to three finalists in Texas, Tennessee and Michigan.

The 6-foot-1, 180-pound defensive back is also a unanimous four-star and top-200 prospect nationally, according to all four major networks, including as high as No. 125 by Rivals.

He has been a two-sport standout since childhood, including winning a track state championship as a member of the Panthers’ 4×200-meter relay team as a sophomore and preparing now for his third football season in the starting lineup.

“I just feel like I’m going to do what’s best in my heart and follow my heart,” he said. “My process is my process, and I ultimately wanted to do it before the season just to enjoy my senior year with my brothers and win a state championship.”

The duo will officially sign in December as two of the most prominent football prospects in Woodlawn’s history, regardless of their selections.

And Randall emphasized the extent that impact has had beyond their performances on the field.

“One thing is they both are leaders,” coach Marcus Randall said. “If you’re looking at the grade-point average, Jordan’s somewhere near a 4.5 and Rickie’s right at a 3.5 or 3.6. So they’re doing it not only on the field, but they’re doing it off the field. Their leadership has helped basically take us to the next level. We knew coming here that they were those type of guys, but we obviously had to see them get there.

“And we knew that when those guys would get rolling, that you’d not only see it for themselves, but now they’re bringing a lot of national attention here and that means a lot of our other guys get increased opportunities to get seen and get some recognition.”

Rickie Collins and Marcus Randall Awarded Top District Honors

Rickie Collins and Marcus Randall Awarded Top District Honors

After finishing the regular season with a 5-4 record, including a 4-1 district mark and the District 5-5A Championship, the Woodlawn players were recognized by district coaches.

Senior Kyle Jones makes a catch in pregame warm ups.

Seventeen players were named to the first or second teams. In addition to these selections, Quarterback Rickie Collins and Head Coach Marcus Randall were recognized with two of the top three awards for the district.

Collins, a junior, was named the District 5-5A Offensive MVP. He completed 119 of 182 passes for 1930 yards. He finished with 16 passing touchdowns and 3 rushing touchdowns to only 3 interceptions.

Coach Randall was named Coach of the Year in District 5-5A. Randall is in his third year as the Head Coach of the Panthers. Coach Randall led Woodlawn to their first District Championship since 2010.

Offensively, the Panthers placed five players on the first team. Offensive linemen Roy Brackins and Jeron Lewis helped protect Collins and open up holes for fellow first team member Amani Givens. Givens finished the season with 917 yards on 111 carries with 7 touchdowns.

The final first team offensive player was wide receiver Jaylon Henry. Henry led the district in receiving with 43 catches for 788 yards and 8 touchdowns.

Wide receivers Clayton Adams and Kyle Jones, offensive lineman Tylan Day, and running back Jay’Veon Haynes were each named to the second team. Codia Walker and Alonzo Taplin were named to the Honorable Mention team.

Junior DJ Delmore led the Panthers with 4 interceptions through 8 regular season games.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Panthers placed five players on the first team. Defensi

ve lineman Mark Fielder finished the season with 20 tackles, 7 tackles for loss, and 3 sacks. Linebackers Jayden Woods and Ketrick Owens were also selected for first team honors.

Woods led the Panthers with 56 tackles through the 8 game regular season. He added 5 tackles for loss and one forced fumble. Owens finished with 30 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, and 2 PBUs.

Safety Dezaray Delmore and cornerback Jordan Matthews rounded out the first team defensive selections. Delmore led the district with 4 interceptions to go with 35 tackles and one defensive touchdown. Matthews, although rarely targeted, finished the season with 23 tackles and 4 PBUs.

Defensive linemen Ellis McKneely and Devin Boyd and cornerback Marcus Stewart were named members of the second team. Honorable Mention members included Devyn Jones, Mason Watson, Deshaun Flowers, Chris Cooper, and Dawaun Harris.