Harlan on recruiting: Penn Hills’ Mathis building a resume

Wednesday, October 4, 2017 | 6:06 PM

Penn Hills quarterback Hollis Mathis might have the arm strength, the height and the athleticism to someday play college football, just not the physical bulk.

At least not yet.

“We definitely need to put some weight on him,” Penn Hills coach Jon LeDonne said with a laugh. “He's probably 6-2 or 6-3 right now. We'll put some pounds on him this offseason.”

Hollis weighs around 165 or 170 pounds, but that doesn't mean he's weak.

“People see this tall, lanky kid,” Mathis said. “But if we need 2 yards, then I'll put my shoulder down. I am a good bit tougher than people give me credit for.

“This past year I wanted to work most on quarterback mechanics,” he added. “This offseason is all bulking up.”

Mathis' television debut comes Friday night when his Indians visit North Allegheny. The AT&T Sports cameras aren't there for him, like ESPN's cameras were for Pine-Richland's Phil Jurkovec in Week Zero. But for Mathis, a junior with an FCS offer, any attention could be a boost for a first-year starter who ranks among the WPIAL's top passers.

If they watch, LeDonne says, recruiters should like what they see.

“His mechanics are there, his arm is there, he has the range and the knowledge,” LeDonne said. “It's just a matter of putting more stuff on film in significant games against other Division I caliber players.”

Mathis ranks fourth in the WPIAL with 1,353 passing yards. He's thrown 13 touchdowns and only two interceptions. His first scholarship offer came from Howard, a Division I FCS team.

“I see him being possibly FBS,” LeDonne said. “If not, then FCS for sure. I know when we were up at Penn State camp, there was a lot of interest in him.”

Mathis showed his athleticism last week against Seneca Valley. He completed 14 of 20 throws for 265 yards and a touchdown to win 44-28. He also rushed for 111 yards and three touchdowns with a 54-yarder included.

“Since we've got here in June, he's been one of the leaders on the team,” said LeDonne, a first-year coach. “You'd never be able to tell he had never played a meaningful varsity football game the way he approached the game. He's had the team on his back since we got here, holding guys accountable.”

LeDonne credits part of Mathis' early on-field success to quarterbacks coach Matt Flaus, a Thomas Jefferson grad and former backup quarterback at Pitt. Flaus is part of LeDonne's first-year staff that's heavy with Pitt alums. Among them are Cam Saddler, Steve Buches and Brandon Ifill.

Flaus, a walk-on behind Tyler Palko, has sharpened Mathis' footwork and mental approach.

“Coach Flaus, he's a real ins-and-outs kind of guy,” Mathis said. “He says that I have a lot of the (physical) talents I need to play at a high level. He just takes me to that next level with the little things, the things that make the game easier.”

The biggest change, Mathis said, is his improved ability to read defense. His natural preference was to throw deep, and why not when Michigan State commit Julian Major is one of your wideouts?

“I've definitely become a better decision maker,” Mathis said. “Before I always thought: throw it deep, we'll make a play, I can make that throw. Now I (consider): who's supposed to be covering that area? Nobody's there? OK, let's throw it there!

“Now I'm playing a higher mental game than I was before.”

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at charlan@tribweb.com or via Twitter @CHarlan_Trib.


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