LEXINGTON, Ky. (WDRB) - UK defensive end Jason Hatcher just laughs.
“He's a big boy.”
Kentucky defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot describes him like this:
“Imagine a big train, going fast down the track.”
They're talking about freshman defensive tackle Matt Elam. The 6'7, 372(ish) graduate of John Hardin High School was highly recruited, but chose to stay in-state. Eliot believes Elam is the largest player he's ever coached.
Kentucky Head coach Mark Stoops says he's aiming to see Elam in the starting lineup when UK opens the season August 30th against UT-Martin.
“He's so big, but he's so athletic for his size. He's a very unique player. Guys like that don't come around all the time,” says Stoops. “He needs to continue to work to get into shape so he can play at a high level in this conference. I anticipate him playing in the first game and being ready to go.”
Elam passes the eyeball test for sure, but there's a lot of learning ahead for the massive freshman.
“Mostly in high school, I relied on the bull rush because I could just overpower people,” Elam says. But he knows he's in for a whole new ballgame. “Now, it's the SEC and you can (play against) people your size. I'm definitely learning more technique,” he says.
Elam says Kentucky defensive line coach Jimmy Brumbaugh worked on technique with him as soon as Elam arrived in camp.
“You got to reteach everything. You got three seconds and that quarterback's going to get that ball off. If you're just bull rushing all the time, that ball's coming out. He's learning those things and he wants to be good. Those are the things that I like,” says Brumbaugh.
Elam's presence in practice even helps the offense. The running backs are facing him in practice every day. Maybe if they can figure out how to get past him, they can use that to their advantage in games.
“He's a load up front,” says UK offensive coordinator Neal Brown. “People look at his size and that's the first thing they talk about but he's got a lot of football savviness about him.”
Elam says he was a vocal leader at John Hardin. He says he wants to be a leader at UK, but that'll come with time.
“I was a big talker in high school. I feel like a lot of people liked that. It got my teammates to think of me as a leader. Right now, I can't take that role on but I definitely will one day,” says Elam.
He says, for now, he wants to be seen and not heard. It's hard to miss him. Kentucky's opponents may find out that out soon.