Running Wild

Mississippi Scout
Posted Sep 30, 2011


Last season Blackman, Tenn., running back I'Tavius Mathers was named Tennessee's Gatorade Player of the Year after rushing for 2,614 yards and 31 touchdowns. But those numbers will pale in comparison to his senior season should he continue to have games similar to last Friday.


"I broke my single game rushing record with 336 yards and four touchdowns against Bradley Central last Friday," Mathers said. "Both of us were ranked, and it was a good match-up between two good teams. We just came out on top 34-14."

Mathers' performance didn't come as a shock. No, such performances are becoming an every-week occurrence for Scout's No. 42 ranked running back. Mathers rushed for over 230 yards in first game of the season, and followed with 176 yards and two touchdowns in Blackmon's 30-6 win over Independence. The biggest run came with a little over three minutes left to play in the third quarter. Mathers broke open for a 30-yard touchdown to put the game out of reach. Week three Mathers rushed for 225 yards and two touchdowns in a heartbreaking loss to Siegal (37-34). The 195-pounder rushed for 319 rushing yards and three touchdowns in Blackman's 72-24 victory over Signal Mountain in week four. Week five, Mathers rushed for 267 yards and three touchdowns while Blackman handed Oakland its first loss on the season Friday, 42-28. That set up this past week's single-game rushing record of 336 yards and four touchdowns.

In total, Mathers has rushed for over 1,400 yards and 15 touchdowns this season through five games. At this pace he will eclipse Tennessee's state rushing record in a season. Troy Flemming in 1998 set the record with 3,008 yards for Battle Ground Academy.

"The thing that stands out to me this season is just me outrunning people and being able to run down hill. Last year I did a lot of cutting back but this year I'm a straight north-south runner. I cut it if I have to, but I'm going north and south and finishing my runs. I'm not letting one man get me down either. I'm finishing for more yards."

What does Mathers want to work on between now and next season when he reports to college?

"I just want to gain some more weight and get stronger. I'll hit the weights hard after the season is over. I want to report to Ole Miss at 210 pounds. I'm 195 right now."

Speaking of Ole Miss, Mathers took in the Rebels' game against Georgia last weekend. The game marked Mathers' first visit of the season.

"I just wanted to see what their game day atmosphere is like and see if I can handle it for next year. I also wanted to check out their style of offense and if I could see myself fitting in."

The Ole Miss fans in attendance impressed Mathers the most.

"The atmosphere is crazy down there. Even though they're having a tough year their fans are still behind them 100 percent, and they showed me so much love. Their fans still act like they are undefeated and cheer them on. They cheer for their players and coaches no matter if they are winning or not and that showed me a lot. It's easy to cheer for someone doing good but what do fans act like when things go bad? They showed me how loyal they are down there. That means a lot to me because I think fans are a key role to carry you when you're down. They bring your spirit back up."

Mathers had plenty to say about Ole Miss' offense.

"They like to run it between the tackles a lot, and that fits my game well because that's what I like to do. I'm good at running between the tackles so their offense fits my strengths."

The Rebels have struggled with their running game this season and have their top two backs graduating. Mathers sees an opportunity for immediate playing time.

"I think I could come in and give them a big boost. I'd love to play and play a lot next fall for their team. I want to help them reach their goals, and my goal is to help them reach those my freshman season. I just think they have a young team that doesn't have enough experience yet but give them enough time and everything should be clicking. I'm just ready to be a part of it. Coach (Houston) Nutt sees me as a little bit of all of his past great backs. He said my speed is up there with Darren McFadden, and I'm stronger than most of them where when they were seniors in high school. He has a lot of confidence in my game."

What made Ole Miss so attractive in the first place?

"They made me feel like home when I visited this summer. I can just see myself in their offense and making plays for Coach Nutt. It's not that far from home either so my parents can come see me play whenever they want to. I don't know. I just like their school. It's hard to put it all into words."

The visit did nothing but solidify his commitment.

"I'm still firm with my decision. I know I'm going to be there next fall and be a Rebel. I've never questioned my decision since I made it."

Mathers had many choices to choose from as Alabama, MSU, Tennessee, Arkansas, South Carolina, Vandy, Kentucky, Virginia, Notre Dame, Minnesota, Duke and many more offered a scholarship before Mathers decided on Ole Miss.

Which colleges continue to call despite his commitment to Ole Miss?

"I only pick up the phone when Ole Miss calls me, to be honest, but I get a lot of calls. They all call, but Vandy and Arkansas call the most outside of Ole Miss."



Yancy Porter is the Mississippi Scout for Scout.com and he can be reached at yporter@scout.com

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