Where there's a WILL. ..
His prep school coach at Milford Academy, Bill Chaplick, said the same after Matakevich signed with the Owls this winter.
But with another freshman in Nate Smith manning the middle, Matakevich got a chance for his first career start at the WILL last Saturday in the Big East opener against South Florida. It probably won't be his last after posting 15 tackles, including 12 solo and three for loss, in the Owls' exciting 37-28 victory.
His biggest tackle came on third-and-1 from the Owls' 23 in the final minutes when he brought down Demetri Murray for a five-yard loss. Marcus Green blocked Maikon Bonani's 45-yard field goal attempt on the next play to help seal the victory.
"Anywhere in this defense is good for me," assured Matakevich after the win. "I was excited to start. I just wanted to stick to the game plan, do my job, my responsibilities, do whatever I could to help the team out.
"I thought I made some mistakes, but as long as we won I don't care. It was one of the best feelings ever. I was blessed to be in there and be a part of one of the best team wins I've ever been a part of."
When Smith and Matakevich were the two leading tacklers in the Cherry and White game this spring, it appeared the Owls would have to find a way eventually to get both on the field.
Smith was the second-leading tackler on Saturday with eight tackles, including six solo, and a half-sack in which he helped separate South Florida quarterback B.J. Daniels from the ball and his helmet.
"It's nice having another young guy with you," admitted Matakevich. "He makes a play, I make a play. That's what I like about Nate, he's a good teammate. He flies around. We're similar players. We both love the game."
While the Owls weren't crazy about how the schedule set up with two byes in a three-week span in September, it did allow some young players – like their linebackers – to take a few extra practice reps early in the season.
"Bye weeks are great for young guys, they get more comfortable, get more reps, it's like spring ball, so it can be (good), it was for us," said head coach Steve Addazio. "Certainly Tyler benefited from that. He had the opportunity to get in a game, he stepped in and made a bunch of plays. It gives us more depth with another young guy."
Addazio said he saw Matakevich's toughness when he recruited him and in workouts, but he just needed time to make some adjustments to the college game.
"We knew he was a tough guy, that's why we brought him here, he's a tough kid from Connecticut which is where I'm from," said Addazio. "He was a good player in high school, didn't get the opportunity he wanted. He went to prep school and I watched him, he's tough as nails.
"We said ‘This is the kind of guy we want to bring in here.' He was that way when he got here, but he started to get overwhelmed by the mental part of game, and he's finally digesting it and coming into his own."
And now that he has a taste of success, Matakevich is ready for more. He is listed as a probable starter along with senior Ahkeem Smith against Connecticut this week, though after his performance in his first career start it would be surprising if he doesn't get another extended chance.
"Confidence-wise, coming into (the South Florida) game, I had butterflies," said Matakevich. "But after that first play you're in there and there's no coming out."
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