For three years, Kentucky’s Matt Elam has been polarizing figure. As a highly touted in-state prospect, Mark Stoops beat Nick Saban and Alabama for the talents of the John Hardin High School star. From day one, fan expectation has been unrealistic as the nose tackle position is not one commiserate with flash and pizazz. However, Elam has yet to display the obligatory endurance to consistently influence a game’s outcome. Fair or not; as an NFL draft eligible junior, he now has no other option than to live up to the extravagant hype surrounding his Lexington arrival. In NFL terms, Matt Elam is in a contract year.
With summer workouts in full gear, there’s not a Wildcat on the roster that needs to maximize his time in the weight room, nutrition facility, and running track more than the junior NT. As the primary run stuffer in DJ Eliot’s 3-4 defense, as Elam goes so does the Wildcat’s interior run defense. The BBN will not have to wait long to gauge his development. On week one, Southern Miss travels to Lexington with a talented, veteran center in Cameron Tom. Also laying in waiting are four more Rimington Trophy Watch List centers.
*The Rimington Trophy is presented to college football’s best center.
Alan Knott, South Carolina
The 6’4 280-pound junior has started 17 games for the Gamecocks. Since Will Muschamp’s arrival to Columbia, Knott has been named as the Most Improved Offensive Lineman as well as earning the Joe Morrison Spring Offensive Player of the Game.
Brandon Kublanow, Georgia
Last season, the 6’3 282-pound senior was named to the All SEC’s 2nd Team. Kublanow earned the Hugh Hendrix Award which is presented to the Bulldog that most strains his potential following spring practice. In other words, the hardest working player on the team. A seasoned veteran, he started all 13 games in 2014 and 2015.
Cameron Tom, Southern Miss
At 6’4 287-pounds, the senior Golden Eagle returns as the leader of an offensive line that racked up 7,133 total yards in 2015. An All-Conference USA selection, Tom was a mere two-star prospect from Baton Rouge Catholic High School. He’s since started 26 consecutive games and was moved from guard to center following his sophomore season.
Coleman Thomas, Tennessee
The junior was selected as the SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week in the Volunteer’s win over Mizzou. Thomas started all 13 games as a sophomore. In last season’s win over Georgia, he effectually played right tackle as UT dominated the Dawgs on the ground.
Jamaal Clayborn, Mississippi State
Clayborn played in a team high 848 offensive snaps in 2015. The 6’4 320-pound senior spurned the NFL Draft to return for a senior season in Starkville. He was moved from guard to center during Mississippi State’s 2014 bowl practice.
If you’re a frequent reader of this site, then you’ve probably read my grave concerns regarding the Kentucky defensive line. If DJ Eliot remains steadfast in running the 3-4 defense, then on a weekly basis Matt Elam must play with much improved fortitude. Above listed centers are much like UK’s two-time Rimington Trophy Watch Lister, Jon Toth. Consistent traits within the group are: toughness, experience, intelligence, and noted relentless work ethic. In 2016, Elam as well as Naquez Pringle will have their hands full, literally.