Spring game 'just a little taste' for Gators' Elam
Published: Monday, April 12, 2010 at 5:42 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, April 12, 2010 at 5:42 p.m.
It took several months and many Urban Meyer trips to West Palm Beach to convince heralded safety Matt Elam to attend Florida after graduating from Dwyer High School. It didn't take nearly as long for Meyer to decide to put Elam on the field.
After nearly two years of committing, decommitting and re-committing to UF, Elam finally saw his first plays as a Gator in The Swamp during Saturday's Orange & Blue Debut. That action came early, as he was on the field for the opening play as a part of the first-team defense.
"It felt like a lot was off my shoulders," Elam said. "Now, recruiting is over with and I'm playing and competing. I'm a Gator now and playing in The Swamp is the greatest thing ever."
Elam shared snaps with the first-team Blue defense and the second-team Orange unit. He finished with four total tackles, three with the orange squad.
The 6-foot-1, 205-pound Elam made his presence felt early when he stopped Andre Debose on the 2-yard line on the opening drive. Debose took a John Brantley slant pass over the middle and seemed destined for a score before Elam swept in and wrapped him up for his lone tackle with the first unit.
Later in the quarter, Elam stopped former high school teammate Robert Clark on a 22-yard pass from Trey Burton. He jammed the line of scrimmage on a 1-yard Mike Gillislee run in the third quarter and took Gillislee off his feet on a 24-yard rush during the Blue team's final drive.
Meyer was short and sweet in his praise of Elam after the game, but his excitement to have the five-star safety on his roster was obvious.
"Matt Elam played great today," Meyer said. "He's going to play for us next year."
But Elam knows that one spring doesn't make an All-American. His timing was off early in spring practices and his anticipation was rusty at times during drills. As sessions wore on, he looked increasingly comfortable in the defense which was enough to earn a nod on the starting squad.
"I'm working my tail off and I still have a lot of work to do," he said. "I still have to work hard to get in the mix, compete and get ready to play."
He says that work begins Monday with workouts in preparation for the fall. For Florida fans, the two hours spent with Elam Saturday was just enough to whet the appetite of folks used to big hits and clutch interceptions.
"This is just a little taste," Elam said. "When 90,000 (fans) kicks in, that'll be the best feeling ever. It'll be like Christmas when I was eight years old."