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Greg McElroy hammers Matt Elam: UK coaches and players defend him

SEC Network analyst and former Alabama QB Greg McElroy went on a televised rant about “lazy” and “underachieving” Matt Elam, while his teammates came to his aid.

NCAA Football: Missouri at Kentucky Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Elam has made very few fans in his three years at Kentucky. It appears Greg McElroy is not one of them.

The former Alabama quarterback, covering SEC Media Days for the SEC Network, ripped into the former five-star defensive tackle for what he perceived as a lack of effort from the Kentucky senior.

“This defensive line, they need to be issued the challenge because this was an embarrassing effort last year, particularly the former five-star Matt Elam who’s lazy and as underachieving a player as I’ve seen in this league in some time,” he said during Tuesday’s segment on the “season outlook” for the Cats.

Later Tuesday, McElroy spoke with Steve Moss of WKYT, and he had even harsher words regarding the defensive tackle’s performance.

“I look at him and his size, his strength, and I look at how disappointing he’s been in his first few seasons, it’s hard for me to overlook a guy with that much potential,” he said. “It’s hard for me to see how lazy he is from time to time, and the fact that he takes plays off on multiple occasions.” McElroy added that while Elam has been a disappointment, that he hopes the player heeds his criticism and “I hope he responds to it because he’s capable of more.”

McElroy was then interviewed on Wednesday afternoon by the Louisville Courier-Journal, and rather than back off his statements, he proceeded to re-emphasize his stance.

“The thing that bothers me is the unreached potential with Matt Elam," McElroy told the reporter. "I think that he’s capable of more. He’s a big 6-foot-7 massive human being and can do a lot of good things and he hasn’t been able to do it to this point. It’s his last chance. He’s got to do it, and if he doesn’t, then this will be his final year of playing football more than likely, and I hope it’s not because he’s got a lot of potential and a lot of talent, a lot of natural talent.” The analyst then added, "It’s obvious on tape. You can watch it, you can see him taking plays off, things like that. It’s not personal; it’s just the reality."

Many UK fans not only are not against the comments, they agree with much of what McElroy said. Elam’s coaches and teammates, however, quickly came to his defense. During his question and answer session on Wednesday, head coach Mark Stoops responded indirectly to the statements about his senior lineman.

“I’m not ever going to condone anybody singling out anybody,” Stoops told reporters. “I try not to do that. I’ve on occasion spoke the truth about certain things with players in media conferences and things like that, but that’s not my style to throw any one person under the bus. I’ve been the first to say that we need to improve in that area. There’s no hiding that. Our players know that. We need to get better.”

Kentucky defenders Courtney Love and Mike Edwards, when asked later in the day, stated that they had spoken with Elam, and even shared a link to the video with him via text message—as did Vince Marrow, one of the men who was instrumental in recruiting him to Kentucky. Marrow went so far as to tweet publicly his support of the young man.

Love said that Elam would respond to the criticism in a productive way. He also stated that Elam’s performance last season was “a direct correlation” of the failures of the defensive unit as a whole. “That’s on me as a leader,” Love said. “I think that Matt’s gonna be great this year. This spring, he really busted his butt.”

UK recruiting coordinator Vince Marrow also offered support on Twitter:

The knocks on Elam, who was recruited by Alabama and listed as one of the top twenty recruits in the nation coming out of high school by 247Sports, are with merit. Through three years at Kentucky, he has failed to register a single sack, and has recorded only one-half tackle for loss, despite weighing well over three hundred and fifty pounds. His inability to move the point of attack, often times being pushed well off the ball by linemen smaller than him, lends credence to the notion that he is simply not trying his hardest, much to the chagrin of Kentucky fans.

Much of the response on social media by fans has been to agree with McElroy’s analysis of Elam, and few hold hope that he will regain his starting spot ahead of JUCO transfer Naquez Pringle. If Elam fails to have a successful season, he will go down as one of the greatest failures in Kentucky recruiting history, and deservedly so. It remains to be seen whether, as Love predicted, Elam will respond on the field and prove everyone wrong, or whether McElroy will be able to say “I told you so” when the season wraps up later this fall.