By Will Marshall and Hank Rippetoe
Matt Elam Defensive line
John Hardin High School
Elam's recruitment has been...something. He was originally supposed to announce at the US Army All American game, but later decided to back out. Many felt he would have already committed to UK if not for his early summer assurance to officials with the all-star game that he would commit on live television during the game. When he backed out, many within BBN became fatigued. He's played the recruiting game with a master's touch, one day tweeting photos of himself in Alabama attire and then the next day in Kentucky attire. To the delight of Kentucky fans, he wore UK attire when Louisville coaches showed up at John Hardin on a recruiting visit. Playing things to the hilt, his coach reported that he might announce a week before NSD. When he finally signed, the whole recruiting world gave a loud sigh of relief that he had finally made a decision. The drama is officially over for the 6'5" 370lb big fella. Kentucky held a spot open for him for a year and his commitment was down to Alabama and Kentucky all along. An assistant coach and his high school principle are rumored to be from Alabama and choosing Nick Saban as his college coach would be akin to an elite basketball player from Alabama choosing to play for John Calipari at Kentucky.
As many opinions as there are about Elam's recruitment, there are just as many as to what kind of player he will be in the future. Some say he will only be able to play running downs at the "Zero or One Techniques"; others think he's more versatile than that and could also play the "3 Technique" or maybe even the "Five Technique." Still others believe his best position in the future would be offensive tackle given his tall height compared to most defensive tackles. In any case, all parties agree that Elam will need to lose weight and improve his conditioning at the next level, and to Elam's credit he is aware of this. Watching the US Army Game it was obvious that he needs to continue to work on keeping his pad level low too. All the more important given his height. I've heard secondhand from the John Hardin football staff that Elam is deceptively athletic, and if he loses weight, gains strength, and improves technique he has a very high ceiling.
It'll be interesting to see how UK handles Elam his freshman season. A redshirt year would obviously suit his physique, and depth at defensive tackle is not bad, but Elam may be able to contribute in short yardage situations. This will be something to watch.