Gators notebook: Elam looking to take his game to another level in 2020

Robbie Andreu
Gator Sports
Florida defensive back Kaiir Elam (5) intercepts the ball away from Virginia wide receiver Hasise Dubois during the second half of the Orange Bowl on Dec. 30, 2019 in Miami Gardens. Florida won 36-28. [Brynn Anderson/Associated Press]

 Kaiir Elam’s goal when he signed with Florida was to start as a true freshman at cornerback last season. Once he arrived on campus and saw Marco Wilson and CJ Henderson, he quickly revised his goal.

 “They’re great corners and they knew a lot more than I did,” Elam said Wednesday. “So I made it my main focus to get better every day. I didn’t really focus on the starting because that isn’t going to help me as a player. So I just focused on really getting better each and every day.

 “When CJ and Marco were out there playing, I was trying to pick up and learn as much as I could. When it was my turn to play I tried to maximize my opportunities.”

 He certainly did that. Elam ended up starting five games and emerged as one of the SEC’s top young defensive backs over the course of the season. He had three interceptions, one that clinched the win over Virginia in the Orange Bowl, and broke up four passes on the season.

 Now that Henderson is in the early stages of making a name for himself in the NFL, Elam is the clear starter at the corner opposite Wilson.

 Coming out of his breakout freshman season, Elam’s goal remains the same as a year ago. That revised goal, that is.

 “My biggest goal every day is just to get better, keep elevating my game, to keep learning and continue to be coachable, and then everything else will probably play off on its own,” he said. “Not worrying about the media, not worrying about what people say. 

 “It’s whatever my coaches ask me to do, I’m going to do it 110 percent and make plays. That’s my biggest goal. Whatever God has planned for me, that’s going to happen. Not to stress about anything, not to get down or anything, just keep being me and good things will have paid off.”

 During the months he was back in South Florida due to the pandemic, Elam got in shape, stayed in shape, by working out with his father, former NFL defensive back Abram Elam, and Wilson, who is from Fort Lauderdale.

 “I learn from (Wilson) each and every day,” Elam said. “I went down to train with him during the corona break, and just learned, picked his brain and I feel like we can be very good together.

 “My main focus (this summer), because we play a lot of press man, was to perfect my technique and to learn from guys who are good at it. So, I watched a lot of film on who they say the top corners are in the NFL and college football to try and add some of those things to my game. 

 “I took pride in making sure I was in the best shape on the field, so I did a lot of running, a lot of speed training and a lot of corner work with my father. That’s basically what I did to try and prepare myself for this season and help my team win a national championship.”

 Elam's ultimate goal is to go down as the greatest cornerback in school history. He's aware of UF's rich tradition producing elite DBs.

 “Those guys are a big inspiration to me," he said. "I’ll watch their highlights and see how they play and the swagger they play with. I try to model my game after them.

 "But I can’t really compare myself to those guys. I don’t want to set a limit for myself because I want to be the greatest. I just want to be the greatest. That’s my main focus right now.”

Miller running with Pitts

 As expected, junior Ventrell Miller has emerged as the starter at David Reese’s old spot at middle linebacker and will be calling out the defensive signals, linebackers coach Christian Robinson said.

 Miller has put in the work to earn the role.

 “The guy’s transformed his body,” Robinson said. “Guy’s lost 15 pounds. He’s running and keeping up with Kyle Pitts in practice. That’s what I tell him every day. You’re playing against one of the best tight ends in all of college football. One of the best I’ve been around. You really get to test your ability when you go up against the best. 

 “That’s something to me that builds confidence. Like coach (Dan) Mullen alludes to all the time, when you get to go against some of the best players in the country in practice every day that’s only going to make your team stronger.”

Praise for Cox

 Georgia transfer defensive end/outside linebacker Brenton Cox has been awarded the jersey No. 1 even though he hasn’t played a down of football yet for the Gators. That should give everyone an idea how highly the coaches think of the former five-star prospect.

 "I don't know about the jersey number, but I can tell you what I've noticed since he's been here,” Robinson said. “Obviously, transferring, it's a new opportunity, a new challenge, but I never saw him complain. He just worked. He was on the scout team last year as a guy that was highly recruited as he was, and to have come here and not really act like he deserved anything. He just worked. 

 “I see that every day. He's a quiet kid. He just goes about his business. Being in Coach Grantham's room, I've played with a lot of guys that played for Coach Grantham at that position that were dynamic, guys that could really change the game. And I think he's one of those guys that, if he puts it together in the way I believe he can, people will take notice of him and want to know where he's at on the field all the time."