The best and most wanted college football prospect on the Buena High School (Ventura) football roster is considered a novice at defensive end.
Dru Mathis – a recipient of 13 NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision scholarship pledges – isn’t used to lining up along the line of scrimmage and collapsing the pocket. However, his past experiences of playing outside linebacker and tight end has earned him the hybrid role on defense, which puts the spotlight on his athleticism and adds to his versatility.
“It (the hyrbrid role) does a lot because colleges see that versatility,” Mathis said. “I can put my hand in the dirt, I can go to linebacker, get some coverages in and run with some routes. Versatility does a lot.”
The 6-foot-3, 215-pound senior has emerged as Buena’s version of Khalil Mack. Most of the time on the football field, Mathis is staring down at an offensive tackle while preparing to fire off from his three-point stance. He’s also seen lined up in a two-point stance before he pounces on ball carriers.
Mathis has over 10 stops behind the line of scrimmage, and that includes his two sacks in Buena’s hard-fought 28-21 road win over Channel League foe Santa Barbara on Oct. 23.
The hybrid role is usually reserved for the most athletic defender in the front seven. Mathis said he’s embraced the role even though it comes with a learning curve.
“It’s a nice position, but it comes with a lot of technique because you’re in a three-point stance for most of the game,” Mathis said. “It’s a little different from being a will linebacker, but it’s good.”
He’s led the defensive havoc for the 6-2 Bulldogs, who are two victories away from securing their first undefeated league season since 2009, when Mathis’ older brother Kendrick – who is now playing defensive back for San Diego State - wore the Buena colors.
The younger Mathis isn’t just the Bulldog player college coaches are clamoring for, or the player who’s asked to play from two different points of attack. He’s one of the vocal leaders for the Buena defense.
“Our defense is not going to work individually, it’s going to work as a team,” Mathis said.
He helped point out one flaw that has plagued the Bulldogs.
“We need to learn how to finish games,” Mathis said. “We’re good at getting started but we need to finish as hard as we started. It’s going to come.”
Two league battles loom for Mathis and the Bulldogs, with 1-7 San Marcos (Goleta) on Friday, Oct. 30 then the huge rivalry contest against Ventura (4-4, 2-0 in the CL) on Nov. 6, which could decide the CL title.
Along with chasing a league championship and finishing out his senior year, Mathis lives a busy life that’s seen frequent travel miles and more colleges picking up interest. He checked out the University of Nevada during the weekend of Oct. 24 and said Washington, Washington State, Purdue and the University of Buffalo are starting to get intrigued by him. He has official visits lined up for Oregon State and Vanderbilt before the season ends.
One of the Mountain West schools that offered him early, though, has gotten Mathis’ attention.
“I like Fresno State a lot,” Mathis said. “I like the coaches. They came and watched me play against Rio Mesa (on Oct. 2) and loved what they saw. They’re always on me.”
Mathis, who holds other offers from New Mexico, Wyoming, Utah State and San Jose State, hasn’t decided on when he’ll commit.
Until then, Mathis plans on continuing to shine in his new area.
“I’m bigger, stronger and faster than anyone else and they can see me rush off the edge,” Mathis said. “It’s my first year of playing d-line, so I have to step up to the challenge. It’s kind of hard to play on the line, but it’s also kind of fun especially when you get sacks.”