By Jeff Shearer
Malzahn was asked about Matthews, who transferred to the Tigers in 2014 after starting six games as a freshman at Georgia. As evaluations go, Malzahn's assessment of Matthews was glowing.
"Tray is our defensive leader," Malzahn said. "He's probably our team leader. I'm very proud of him. He had to earn everybody's respect, his teammates, his coaches, and really, my respect. And he did that and then some.
"To have a chance to win championships, you've got to have great leaders. Right now, I would say our leadership is as good as it's been since I've been here, and he's a big part of that."
Matthews, Auburn's leading tackler in 2016, agreed with Malzahn's evaluation that the Tigers are motivated by a lack of contentment.
"Coach Malzahn has a lot of confidence in us because we're very hungry," Matthews said. "He sees the improvements and the effort we're making. He sees that we have that chip on our shoulder.
"We're not settling for anything. We want to get things done this year because we didn't finish how we wanted to last year, and that was very upsetting. We know we have more in the tank than that. We're going to prove to him that we can get it done this year. And he believes in everything we're doing and saying."
Matthews redirected praise for the Tigers defensive improvement toward coordinator Kevin Steele.
"I don't really care too much about us getting the credit," Matthews said. "But Coach Steele definitely gotten enough credit for that because he's an amazing coach. He's one of the coaches you want to play for. He has impacted the whole defense. He's impacted the whole team."
Steele refers to Matthews as the "CEO" of Auburn's defense, a title Tray embraces.
"It's the guy who provides great leadership," Matthews said. "And I expect the same thing from all of the players around me. If I'm doing everything the right way and I'm working hard in the weight room and in the classroom, I demand excellence from Deshaun Davis, Tre' Williams, Jason Smith, Stephen Roberts. I demand excellence from every single one of them. I'm the CEO of my own company, so I'm the CEO of my friends, my teammates."
Leading by example, Matthews worked out Wednesday night on his own, knowing he would be absent for Thursday's lifting session while he was talking up the Tigers.
"I'm missing some workouts right now, so I had to get it in last night," Matthews said. "I just didn't feel right coming here and not getting work in while everybody back in Auburn is working out."
-- Jeff Shearer (@jeff_shearer) July 13, 2017
Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @jeff_shearer