Saturday was supposed to be a banner day for Kentucky football. With the college football world (and many recruits) watching on, Elam was to be one of 9 All Americans to announce their college choice at the High School All American game. The buzz was everywhere that Elam was going to pick Kentucky and the stage was set for a huge publicity boost for the job that Mark Stoops has done at Kentucky as Elam put on the shiny Big Blue hat. There was some talk that Elam’s decision could push at least one other UK player to potentially switch to the Big Blue as well (Marcelys Jones) and at least two more might come to visit after the game as the Big Blue momentum wave pushed top names to Lexington before Signing Day. It was going to be exciting.
Then it didn’t happen. That isn’t to say that there weren’t things for Kentucky fans to be excited about during the game…Drew Barker looked like a star, leading his team to two touchdowns on two consecutive drives, Matt Elam was a hoss on the line and showcased why he is a 5 star talent and at least one player that did decide (Erick Smith) had a Kentucky hat on stage, something that has been rare in such games. But when Elam postponed his decision, the great day became just a so-so day in Big Blue land. What happened is open to interpretation. Elam told KSR (in his only comments on the subject so far) that he wasn’t “100% certain” and until he was, he didn’t want to commit and then potentially switch at the last minute. One can respect that. It is the biggest decision of the young man’s life and he has a really difficult choice to make…play for his home state school and make everyone around him in his town thrilled or go play for the best program in America that churns out draft picks left and right. Throw in that the 2014 class of UK Football recruits is a tight knit bunch and Elam is close with them as well, and a difficult decision becomes even trickier by the day. In that environment, Elam just wants to be sure and for any 18 year old kid, that is actually showing maturity.
But the reality is that something changed. All signs were pointing to Elam to Kentucky and the postponement can’t really be spun as good news. At best, Elam waits a few weeks, makes an announcement in Kentucky and the Cats still get their man. At worst, the lose the kid to Alabama. But with the postponement, hopes of a Big Blue wave getting some other All Americans went away. Sources told KSR that early in the week, Barker, Elam and three other All Americans (Marcelys Jones, Erick Smith and Travonte Valentine) spent hours talking about the possibility of going to the same school and changing the culture. Smith and Valentine were longer shots, but Jones was on the verge of being flipped from Ohio State to Kentucky. A couple of folks close to the process told me that if Elam had pulled the trigger on Saturday, “Jones was right there with him and may have done the same.” But when Elam postponed, Jones reconfirmed with the Buckeyes, Smith chose Ohio State in a ceremony and Valentine proclaimed LSU his new leader. It may have been unlikely that all, or even one, would have become a Cat, but it was a possibility…and one that could have finished the class with a bang and a final top 12 ranking.
As it is, all is not lost. Matt Elam may still pick Kentucky and if he does, it will be the best class in UK history (probably is regardless). But the momentum of the week was real and seemed on the verge of a program-changing day. It didn’t happen, in large part because Elam decided to wait. You can totally understand where the kid is coming from and I have no problems with the decision. But it does leave you wondering, what might have been.