Notebook: Elam becoming a leader


Matt Elam is taking ownership of the strong safety position at Florida. (Photo courtesy of UF Communications)

Published: Tuesday, March 29, 2011 at 11:50 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, March 29, 2011 at 11:50 a.m.

With the tenacity Matt Elam uses on the field, it'd be hard to tell he can be kind of a shy guy.

Surrounded by reporters Monday, the hard-hitting former high school All-American looked more like a bashful kid than Florida's starting strong safety. But as Elam, who replaces one of the school's best safeties in Ahmad Black, made it through his time with the media he made it clear that his shy side won't come out on the field.

In fact, he's working to make that more of his act as he tries to be one of the new chiefs on defense.

"As far as my role, I have to be more of a leader this year than I was last year," Elam said. "I'm more involved now."




As a true freshman, Elam showcased his skills as a special teams star and played sparingly behind Black and at nickel corner. He played in all 13 of Florida's games, recording 22 tackles, including a sack, and recovered a fumble.

Now, the strong safety spot is all his, and he knows it. He also knows what the guy before him did in his position, but he's not looking to fill anyone else's mighty shoes.

"I'm not too worried about that," he said. "I'm just going to go out and play football."

When he's talking about football, Elam starts to come alive a bit, flashing a big smile, but he becomes reserved again when he's asked about things not pertaining to his goals of getting better and helping his team.

One sensitive issue with him is the sudden resignation of former coach Urban Meyer. The two were very close during his recruitment and Meyer's first — but brief — resignation caused him to switch his verbal commitment to Florida State before flipping back to Florida in the end.

When asked about Meyer, Elam declined to talk about him, but did have high praise for the new staff.

"I love (Coach) (Will) Muschamp," he said. "He's a cool man. I've learned a lot from him and I'm loving the coaching staff."

But that shyness around delicate issues isn't a problem on the field. On the field, it's all about business and according to fellow freshman cornerback Cody Riggs, Elam isn't afraid to speak his mind and direct the defensive backs. It's a work in progress, but Riggs said Elam has come a long way with his vocalization.

"It all matters about how he handles himself on the field," Riggs said. "When Matt makes a call I listen to him."

Harrison moves to center

Redshirt sophomore offensive lineman Jonotthan Harrison is moving from left guard to center.

Harrison said he was surprised by the move, but is comfortable with it because he played some center in high school.

"I was shocked, but I was excited at the same time," he said.

Harrison has yet to play at Florida.

Driskel showing off wheels

Redshirt sophomore right guard Jon Halapio said freshman quarterback Jeff Driskel's transition to the college game this spring has been tough, but the early enrollee has shown signs of improvements lately.

Halapio said Driskel is conducting himself well in the huddle and his best attribute these days is his speed.

"When he's in the pocket and someone's flying at him, he can run real fast," Halapio said.

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