2021 Utah football breakout contenders: Malone Mataele

(Photo: Joel Davidson, UteZone, 247Sports)

Every year, Utah football has a surprise performance that captivates the fan base. Some years it is a newcomer who has an immediate impact like Ty jordan and Jaylon johnson. Other times it’s the upper class men playing above expectations and getting into the NFL Draft, like Terrell Burgess and Cody barton.

This year, Utah has welcomed all of its players eligible for the 2020 Draft and has several veteran players capable of making similar jumps to get on the NFL radars. At the same time, Utah has never had more rookie on the roster than it does today.

Today UteZone takes a closer look at an underclassman candidate ready for a 2021 breakout season, nickel back Malone matele.


Standing 5 feet 11 inches and 185 pounds, Mataele has a good height for the nickel stance and combines that with very good athleticism. He’s flexible and fluid in his lower half and matches that with good mental recognition that not only allows him to react quickly, but with proper technique and angles. Mataele has very quick feet that allow him to accelerate and change directions easily, and while he might not have the elite top speed, it’s still pretty good too. Mataele plays with good tenacity and is a voluntary tackler. He needs to become more consistent with his tackling technique and make sure he finishes more often, but the willingness to compete, tackle and deliver big hits is there, which is a good sign of competitive resistance.


After playing sparingly on the defensive side of the ball in 2019, Mataele emerged as one of the best defensive backs on the list last year. He locked the nickel spot after showing tremendous progress in his game. It was a tough start to the season for Mataele, he only played three shots against USC, missed the Washington game and then n ‘played just 16 shots against the State of Oregon. However, he took on Colorado and Washington State, where he showed more of what he was capable of. He ended the season on a high note with a performance of three tackles and two assists against the Wazzu.


It’s wild, but after joining the program in 2018, Mataele is still considered a sophomore as he nears his fourth year in Utah. Keep in mind that Mataele came to Utah as an athlete who played back and forth in high school and was a bit raw in terms of technique and understanding of defensive responsibilities as a defensive back.

As the team left the 2019 season to enter their 2020 offseason schedule, it looked like things were finally starting to click for Mataele. In the short spring camp the team had last year, Mataele showed a lot of progress and reminded a lot of his potential. He continued to show progress in fall camp, as evidenced by his securing a spot among the roster’s top three defensive backs and winning the starting nickel.

As already explained, the 2020 season has been trying for Mataele. However, he finished the season strong and turned it into another good performance at spring camp. As a nickel in Utah’s 4-2-5 defense, he will play a vital role in many key Utah games this season. Utah will need him to play at a high level and the good news is there is a lot of confidence in him to do just that and make an impact this season.

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