BOZICH | At Kentucky football, the wait (and weight) for Matt El - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | At Kentucky football, the wait (and weight) for Matt Elam continues

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UK defensive lineman Matt Elam needs to tower over opposing halfbacks. (Eric Crawford photo.) UK defensive lineman Matt Elam needs to tower over opposing halfbacks. (Eric Crawford photo.)

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WDRB) – I located the signature Matt Elam quote.

The one that has University of Kentucky football fans convinced Elam is primed to become the player Nick Saban thought that he would be at Alabama and Brian Kelly was certain he would be at Notre Dame, the guy who performs the way a winning team needs a 6-foot-7, 360-pound, four-star recruit to perform.

Again, The Quote:

“I’ve given up a lot of my favorite foods. A lot of sweets, a lot of snacks. I don’t eat late any more. And I had to give up all sodas, which is kind of hard for me but you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.”

Here is the question: When did Elam utter those 48 words?

Was it Friday at Kentucky’s annual football media day? Or was it Aug. 7, 2015 at the media gathering the Wildcats staged prior to last season?

Trick question?

Not really.

Necessary question?

Absolutely. The wait to talk about more than Elam’s weight continues.

UK coach Mark Stoops needs Matt Elam to become the guy who makes it risky and dangerous to run the football against the Kentucky defense, not a guy who has to be urged to eat and drink the right things.

The first 48-word quote is one Elam delivered prior to last season. I know. I retrieved this story that Eric Crawford and I wrote after UK media day in 2015.

This is what Elam said Friday when he faced questions about his weight and conditioning again:

“I finally got to the weight that I wanted to be, so that should be straight … I just had to cut out sodas, soft drinks, all the stuff like that. I just have to drink water and Gatorade. That was probably the killer for me.”

Sooner or later, we’ll know the rest of the story:

Will Elam figure it out and become the player the best college coaches in America thought he could be when they recruited him out of John Hardin High School in Elizabethtown, Ky., several years ago?

Or will Elam remain a super-sized tease, a guy who looks the part but does not develop into the signature piece of Stoops’ acclaimed 2014 recruiting class.

Stoops said he likes what he sees. There are several reasons Elam is listed as the starting nose guard. One is roster turnover. Another is Elam’s improved attention to fitness.

“Matt looks very good,” Stoops said. “Hopefully that will translate to the field.”

Hopefully.

I remembered what Elam said before last season. I remember that he said the same thing on Friday. I reminded him that he essentially delivered the same words. The only difference was 364 days and that Elam spoke about 15 yards from the spot where he spoke last season.

I had to ask: Why will this season be different?

“Before when I talked about it, I was going to do it,” Elam said. “Right now I’m doing it. I lost the weight. I’m doing it right now.”

Well, maybe. A year ago Elam said he came to camp at 360 pounds. On Friday he admitted that 360 was not an accurate read. He was closer to 375 or 380.

On Friday, Elam said he weighed 350. His goal is to finish training camp at 340 or even 335.

So the wait on Elam’s weight continues. Until Elam stays on the field at a size that translates into effective play, it’s merely media day fodder. Pre-season stories can’t change that. Only Elam can change that.

He played in all 12 games, starting four in 2015. He contributed 23 tackles, but six came in the opener against Louisiana-Lafayette. He also had six against Auburn. Elam did not make more than three tackles in his 10 other games. Sacks? His next sack will be his first sack at UK.

“I feel like I’ve just got to change it,” Elam said. “I’ve got to play better.”

Kentucky needs more. Much more.

Read what Stoops said about him. The head coach understands.

“I think as you look at Matt, a lot of people have great expectations for him, as we do,” Stoops said. “But he's a different kind of player.

“He's a guy that's very good over the center in a zero technique which we play quite a bit of. He does a really good job in there. What he does and what we ask him to do, he's not always going to be that guy behind the line of scrimmage playing those flashy plays.

“But he's played some very good football for us. He needs to be more consistent with the weight loss, playing more, being lighter on his feet, playing more snaps. That will help all of us. He needs to continue to improve and have a great summer.”

At Kentucky, the wait for Matt Elam continues.

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