SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- One of the top defensive tackles in the country will make a decision at the US Army All-American game on Saturday, as 247Sports five-star Matt Elam of Elizabethtown (Kent.) John Hardin will choose between Kentucky and Alabama during the game.
Rated as the No. 2 defensive tackle in the country by 247Sports, Elam is a massive force on the interior at 6'5 and 350 pounds.
The Kentucky native didn't grow up a fan of the home state Wildcats, as he says that he was more of a neutral observer of the game, so it speaks to the job that head coach Mark Stoops has done already to have a chance to land Elam over national power Alabama, something that wouldn't have been possible in previous years.
Surprisingly enough, however, part of the reason that Elam likes the new coaching staff better is because the previous staff didn't show him much attention.
"They have made a big impact in my recruitment, because before the new staff got there, Kentucky wasn't even recruiting me very hard or really at all. Then when Joker [Phillips] went to Florida, he started recruiting new there, and I was kinda like, 'Naw, I don't want to mess with that because you didn't recruit me at Kentukcy,'" Elam said.
All that changed when Stoops and his staff arrived in Lexington and realized that while the state doesn't produce a lot of top talent every year, locking down the top talent that does come out of the Bluegrass State is important.
"When Stoops and his staff came in, I feel like they changed the program," Elam said. "I talked to [Kentucky commit] Drew [Barker] and he was like, 'Man, I wasn't considering them at first, but when Stoops came, I put them to the top of my list.' I feel like that's definitely the case with me, they made such a jump because of what he did at FSU and especially with the defensive line."
In fact, Barker is in the ear of Elam talking up Kentucky, but understands how the walk a fine line between selling the program and avoiding an excessive amount of pressure.
"Very hard, but he also gives me space to make my own decision and that's why I really like Drew a lot, because he knows he needs these guys, but he's also been through it, so he knows how it goes," said the big defensive tackle.
As for Alabama?
"There's a lot to like about Alabama -- the defending national champions, the coaching staff, it's just one of the best in the country. And then to get to play on the biggest stages against the best competition, you can't really get that against Kentucky, so there are some pros and cons with that."
"The atmosphere I always say is probably one of the best in the nation -- it's just always crazy and it's never quiet. It's just crazy. Me and my coaches went and had a blast," he said.
But make no mistake -- it's not just Drew Barker who is recruiting Elam, as several Alabama commits are working on Elam as well.
"They just say that I would get to play agains the best competition. Who doesn't want to play against the best competition? It always makes you better."
Elam said that he doesn't have any idea which school he's going to choose -- he'll decide the night before the game or the day of the game.
When he does, comfort level will make the difference for him and the industry consensus has Kentucky as the pick, though it was hard not to notice the change in Elam's tone when he started talking about the Alabama.
And as Alabama quarterback commit David Cornwell told SB Nation Recruiting back in the spring, it's hard to say no to Nick Saban.
The industry expects that to happen, however, as Elam's Crystal Ball predictions have been trending in favor of Kentucky, which now holds essentially a 60-40 lead.