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Film Study: Sophomore running back Izzy Matthews

Andre Simone Avatar
June 4, 2016


If the Rams want to win, they’ll have to run in Mike Bobo’s ground-and-pound attack.

It’s time for another edition of our Rams Film Study. After looking at the quarterbacks, it’s time to take an in-depth look at freshman running back Izzy Matthews who came on strong at the end of last season.

Matthews was sharing touches in the backfield with Dalyn Dawkins and Jasen Oden Jr. in 2015, limiting his playing time in the beginning of the year. As the season wore on, the talented freshman started to receive more opportunities, leading to a breakout performance against Fresno State (140 yards and a touchdown with an impressive 7.78 yards per carry) and another promising outing in the Bowl game against Nevada.

Because Matthews was brought along slowly, there isn’t as much tape of him. Due to this, our analysis will focus on the last three games of 2015, in addition to his two-touchdown performance against Wyoming.

Matthews, physically, reminds of other big backs with deceptive speed who’ve had success in Mike Bobo’s offense at Georgia like Todd Gurley and Nick Chubb, though he’s a poor man’s version of those two.

Matthews established himself as the most explosive runner and big play threat of the group by the end of the year. The promise he showed at the end of 2015 is very encouraging for his upcoming season. Now let’s take a look at Matthews’ most promising strengths as well as the areas of his game that may need the most improvement.

Scouting report:


  • Matthews is a big, physical back. Built like a bowling ball, he’s low to the ground and hard to bring down. He showed some real potential in breaking tackles and being a force up the middle. Expect him to excel in this area with a bit more maturity to his game.

    Izzy shows off his power, pounding his way into the end-zone against Wyoming
    Izzy shows off his power, pounding his way into the end-zone against Wyoming
  • The soon to be sophomore has quick feet and shows some great agility. While he’s not going to make many defenders miss with moves in the open field, he has the feet to quickly side step a defender penetrating the backfield, or to quickly hit his lane.
    Matthews shows off his quickness with an impressive spin move
    Matthews shows off his quickness with an impressive spin move.

    Avoids a tackle for a loss thanks to his agility and gains 1st down
    Avoids a tackle for a loss thanks to his agility and gains 1st down.
  • He’s a decisive north and south runner, who doesn’t get too fancy with any added lateral motion.
  • Izzy had very few (if any) negative plays (in the tape I studied), he almost always finds ways to fall forward or avoid first contact and manages to add yards this way.
  • Matthews has some deceptive breakaway speed for a back his size. With a full head of steam, he’s scary.

    Izzy breaks a long TD against Fresno
    Izzy breaks a long TD against Fresno.
  • While his experience is limited, he’s shown some skills in the screen game. His combination of agility, size, and speed suit him well as he’s hard to bring down in the open field and does his best to pump out extra yards.
  • Matthews was rarely asked to pass protect, the few times he was, he looked quite good. Shows promise in this area. This will be an important skill for him to develop so that he can see the field more often on 3rd down.
  • Given his youth, Matthews showed good vision late in the year. Also demonstrated some patience in letting the play develop and hitting the hole. Very promising area of his game.


  • Matthews hasn’t been used much as a receiver, with only three career receptions, all of which were screens. He didn’t run many routes last year. He’ll need to develop in this area of his game as he shows promise as a runner, but seems lackadaisical in his route running, would sometimes just stand around.
  • While he does fit the mold of a bigger back, with deceptive quickness/speed, he’s not an elite athlete like the Georgia backs that Bobo has had in the past. Speed is good, but not great.
  • Matthews isn’t a particularly creative runner in the open field. Doesn’t try extra moves, jukes or jump cuts in the open field to add extra yards. He’s a pure, no nonsense back, who keeps running with physicality until someone brings him down (both a positive and a negative).
  • Izzy isn’t the most sudden mover or accelerator, needs a few steps to get to full speed, change of direction speed isn’t great.


While Matthews will never be confused with a scat back, he has all the potential to be the bell cow for Bobo’s run-heavy attack and become a star in the Mountain West. He reminds me very much of Pittsburgh’s James Connor (a slightly smaller version) with a less well-rounded game at this point in his career.

Listed at 6-foot and 215 pounds, he plays much bigger, with a downhill attitude that suits the Rams’ attack well. Izzy and the running game will be some of the biggest friends to the quarterback and receiving game in 2016, as he could be one of the catalysts to the offense turning into a more run-heavy unit as the coaching staff would like.

While he’s still young and inexperienced, Matthews has lots of qualities needed for becoming an important player in this offense. His lack of explosion will hinder him somewhat, and while his outstanding yards per run average should decrease, his overall touchdowns and yards should increase significantly.

Going into the 2016 football season, Izzy is one of the breakout candidates on offense and will have lots of expectations going into the year. If he plays the way he finished off last season there could be lots to get excited about.

Read our interview with Izzy from April here and see where he wants to improve this season.


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