By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. — Tray Matthews has played for two SEC schools and played with two bum shoulders.
He speaks with authority, and so it was the Auburn defensive back had a word for his teammates appearing in their first game last Saturday.
"I tell all the players this that just started playing: 'Just play with confidence.'"
"At the end of the day, it's just a game. It's a football game. We can't get nervous and just think,
Man, what if I do something wrong?' Just go out there and play lights out and do your assignment. That's what I tell those guys who are young."
Auburn's defense has won praise for its performance in last week's 19-13 loss to No. 2 Clemson. Now, it'll be looking to slow Arkansas State in Saturday's 6:30 p.m. game in Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Matthews and his defensive back mates topped the tackle charts. Nick Ruffin had 10, Matthews had nine and Carlton Davis and Rudy Ford had six each.
"It was an awesome feeling just playing with my friends," Matthews said. "We're all pretty close on the defensive side. We’re all around the same age. So it’s very easy to communicate. So we all kind of complement each other."
Matthews, who had offseason surgery to repair both shoulders, said he and Deshaun Davis, Tre' Williams, Montravius Adams and Carl Lawson are "all right around the same age group. We just feel real confident. We feel we can do big things if we stick together and keep playing up to our potential."
Matthews said the game film review of the Clemson game showed what the defense can do.
"It's refreshing. There's a lot of momentum. We’ll bring that into the next game. That's the one thing I like about it, coming into a pretty solid game. We'll bring that confidence into the next game and the next game. It’s a great feeling. I can tell you that much."
The opener was especially special. Matthews, who made is Auburn debut last season, got to play with Markell Boston, his longtime friend from Newnan, Ga.
"It was meaningful. It was very emotional, because we’re from the same hometown and we always dreamed about that," Matthews said. "He did a pretty good job when he was in there, so we'll just keep it rolling."
It was Boston's first game. It was the 32nd game for Josh Holsey, who has battled through two knee injuries. Matthews said his teammate has returned with a bounce in his step.
"I already knew Holsey had that back when he got hurt," Matthews said. "He would have been a great asset to the team last year if he didn’t get hurt. He's an incredible player, he plays with a lot of fire and he's an intense player, so I'm glad to have a vet like that beside me in the secondary."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine
— Auburn Gold Mine (@AUGoldMine) September 9, 2016