Birthday: December 2, 1982
Strengths: Blame the West Coast bias. Relative to other top college defensive backs, Matt Ware is flying under the radar, but that could change in a hurry this fall. Equally capable at cornerback or safety, Ware has the height to match up with big receivers like Stanford’s Teyo Johnson and San Diego State’s Kassim Osgood, and he has the 4.4 speed and quickness to stay step-for-step with them on every pattern they run. Oh, and Ware can lay a hit and make an open field tackle, too.
Ware played the 2001 season at corner, becoming the first true freshman to start every game for the Bruins, earning PAC-10 Freshman of the Year honors. He switched to safety to begin the 2002 season, but later moved back to corner so coaches could use his height to man up on the bigger receivers in the conference.
Ware’s versatility goes beyond the secondary. He’s blocked a punt and even taken a few snaps as an option quarterback.
Areas for Concern: Ware spends his summers working on hitting a curveball instead of reading a deep ball. Drafted by the Mariners two years ago, Ware’s passion for both baseball and football could keep him from developing as quickly as he could in football.
Minor injuries have nagged at Ware of late. After separating his shoulder against USC as a freshman, he suffered a sprained ankle against Oklahoma State, strained his hamstring against Washington and USC last year, and even had a bout of back spasms to boot. Facing some of the top wideouts in each of those games, players like Rashaun Woods, Reggie Williams, and Mike Williams, and walking away wounded will not help his draft status. Perhaps the year-round wear and tear of being a multi-sport athlete is sending his body a few subtle hints?
Ware also saw his stats take a dive in his sophomore season, nabbing only one interception after setting the pace nationally for freshman with five in 2001. With apologies to Washington State’s Marcus Trufant and Oregon State’s Dennis Weathersby, Ware might have been the most feared shutdown corner in the conference last year, but only when he was healthy. Teams challenged rarely challenged him at full health, giving some legitimate reason for the drop-off in production. USC’s Carson Palmer, however, chose to challenge Ware on the first play from scrimmage. Kareem Kelly used an inside-out move to get open for Palmer’s pass, burning Ware for a score and deflating the Bruins to begin a 52-21 rout.
How Does He Look in Steel Blue? Ware is a smart player who learns on the fly. It’s what has allowed him to make such an impact so early in his collegiate career, as he’s been able to seamlessly shift between the safety and corner positions, as well as not skip a beat in the fall after a summer of baseball.
His prototypical size would be welcome in any NFL secondary. Ware’s natural athleticism, his ability to make good reads, and his closing speed all make him worthy of a high pick on draft day. The Texans have more immediate needs at free safety, and Ware’s versatility could make him a valued commodity to Houston’s coaching staff as the rigors of the NFL wear game-to-game and season-to-season.
(profile written by Keith Weiland)
Matt Ware’s 2002 Stats G TCK PBU INT FF FR 13 51 4 1 2 0 Matt Ware Return to The War Room
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