Five Players to Watch in 2019: #1 Yetur Gross-Matos
In a five-part series, I will count down the top five Penn State football players I am excited to watch for the 2019 season. With such a young team filled with potential, this list was difficult to make. It is now time to reveal my number one Player to Watch in 2019 and he has Penn State fans and NFL scouts buzzing.
Over the last 20 years, Penn State produced some of the best defensive lineman in college football. Courtney Brown was the first overall pick in the 2000 NFL Draft. Michael Haynes and Jimmy Kennedy went first round followed by Anthony “Spice” Adams going in the second round of the 2003 NFL Draft. Tamba Hali went first round in 2006 while Aaron Maybin heard his name called in the first round in 2009.
Unfortunately, Jared Odrick was the last Penn State defensive lineman drafted in the first round way back in 2010. There have been some great linemen roaming around Happy Valley since then, but none that have left a great enough impression on NFL scouts for first round consideration. That could all change this year as my number one Penn State Player to Watch, Yetur Gross-Matos will look to impress not only NFL scouts, but also leave a lasting legacy at Penn State.
Stepping up Right Away
The rising junior made an impact as a true freshman, as he played in all 13 games in 2017. For the season, he tallied 17 tackles, with 2 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, and a fumble recovery. His experience rotating into the defensive line as a freshman would prove to be very beneficial as Gross-Matos stepped into a bigger role in 2018.
Yetur Gross-Matos earned a starting job on the defensive line for the Appalachian State game and never looked back. He notched a half a tackle for loss in the opening game, which started a streak that went through the whole season. Gross-Matos had at least a half a tackle for loss in every regular season game in 2018.
After the bye week is when the Virginia native emerged as a star of the Penn State defense. Here is the three game stretch following the bye week that propelled Gross-Matos to one of the elite defensive linemen in the country.
- Vs. Michigan State 4 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 0.5 sacks
- Vs. Indiana 10 tackles, 2 TFL, 2 sacks
- Vs. Iowa 9 tackles, 4 TFL, 2 sacks (Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week)
For the season, Yetur Gross-Matos notched 54 total tackles. He had 20 tackles for loss, which tied him for ninth in the country with first round pick from Clemson, Clelin Ferrell. He also had 8 sacks for a defensive unit that averaged the most sacks per game in the country at 3.62 per game, edging the National Champion Clemson Tigers.
Gross-Matos’s huge 2018 season garnered him some postseason accolades as he took home First Team All-Big Ten honors. Now, for 2019, the 6’5” 259 lineman will look to make his mark on the national stage and impress those watching him at the next level.
During the summer, Coach James Franklin suspended Yetur Gross-Matos for a violation of team rules. He was allowed back with the team starting August 1. Hopefully, with this behind him, he’ll be able to live up to some of the preseason hype coming his way.
Believe the Hype
Preseason watch lists usually span a long list of players that might not even have a chance of winning the award. However, this defensive stand out is a legitimate contender for all of the preseason accolades he is receiving. So far, Gross-Matos is on four award watch lists prior to the season. He was named to the Lott IMPACT, Chuck Bednarik, Bronko Nagurski, and most recently Ted Hendricks award watch lists. The first team All-Big Ten performer is certainly worthy of this recognition considering his skill set.
What to Expect from Gross-Matos in 2019?
Yetur Gross-Matos is a special defensive lineman because he can beat you in so many ways. He possesses the quickness off the ball to blow past linemen and get into the back field. He also has the strength to bull rush and beat his blocker using his power moves. The defensive lineman also has a variety of moves to shake blockers, as well. He could do a spin move or even use his hands to set up a cut inside an offensive lineman to get into the backfield. A high motor where he plays through every whistle is just another trait that makes him such a great player.
He is also proving to be very versatile, as well, which is benefiting the Penn State defensive line in several ways. Although he is naturally a defensive end, there have been several instances where Gross-Matos has moved inside to a tackle position. This occurs mostly on definite passing situations to allow Penn State to get another edge rusher on the line while keeping the pass rush skills of Gross-Matos on the field, as well. It seems like a small aspect of his game, but it is such a luxury to have a player of his talent that can help his team in ways like this.
Now, as the primary threat on the defensive line, I am positive the junior defensive lineman will face more double teams and even some triple teams. How he handles these game plans from his opponents will be crucial to both his success and the success of the rest of the defense. As I mentioned above, his motor is fantastic on the field, as he never gives up on plays and will hunt ball carriers down the field. This will help him deal with these double and triple teams as he won’t have lackadaisical effort because he is frustrated with how teams are trying to stop him. If he manages how teams plan to take his big-play ability away, it will lead to more big plays from his other teammates who are all of the sudden coming up to a ball carrier unblocked.
First Round Selection?
The NFL seems to be a likely destination for Yetur Gross-Matos following the 2019 season. Aside from injury or a down season from the junior defensive lineman, he is looking at a draft position that may be too difficult to pass up. Because of the skills mentioned above, ESPN NFL Draft expert Mel Kiper listed Gross-Matos as his sixth best overall prospect on his Big Board back in May.
A player who performed at a high level in 2018 and has very high expectations in 2019, there was no question Yetur Gross-Matos would be my number one player to watch entering 2019. He is certainly the top player for NFL scouts to watch from the 2019 Nittany Lions and it’s because of his wide range of skills. His speed, power, finesse, and versatility excite me so much. Just watching highlight videos of him had me ready to watch him chase down a quarterback on a big third down play in a rocking Beaver Stadium. Hopefully for Penn State fans, we get to see that sight a whole lot from Yetur Gross-Matos in 2019, just as we did in 2018.
I hope you enjoyed my Five Players to Watch in 2019 series!
If you missed any, here are the links to previous articles:
Here is the link to today’s Penn State’s Prey: Rutgers, as well.
Stay tuned for more Penn State coverage from For The Glory as we lead you into the 2019 season opener against Idaho on August 31!