Christopher Smith

Kentucky Nets Five-Star DT Over 'Bama

Jan 31, 2014 12:22 AM EST

In a rare occurrence, SEC East bottom-dweller Kentucky beat out Alabama for a five-star recruit, namely defensive tackle Matt Elam.

Elam, from Elizabethtown, Ky., committed to the Wildcats on Thursday. At 6-foot-5 and a surprisingly nimble 370 pounds, Elam projects as a coveted two-gap nose tackle in a 3-4 scheme.

The presence of coach Mark Stoops, who will be entering his second year as head coach, and the opportunity to stay in his home state apparently made the difference.

Would Elam have gone to Kentucky without Stoops? "No, sir, not at all," Elam told a local reporter.

Depending on which site you trust, Elam is a Top 50 or even a Top 25 prospect, and his decision bumped Kentucky solidly inside the Top 25 of 24/7 Sports' class rankings. Rivals rates Kentucky as the 13th-best class nationally as of Thursday. 

“I feel like that’s one of the main reasons I stayed — just to help my in-state program,” Elam told “I feel like I can do whatever I can do anywhere else at the University of Kentucky and it’s in my home state.

“It is very hard to turn down Alabama. It’s the mecca of football. I will say I love what they’re doing down there. I hope they keep it up.”

The SEC East may become brutal if Stoops' progress is more than rumored and a heralded defensive line class meets expectations. Butch Jones also is pulling in a respected class at Tennessee. Many expect Georgia and Florida to rebound from down seasons, and Vanderbilt, South Carolina and Missouri had strong years in 2013.

Said Elam, according to Kyle Tucker: "I feel like UK can definitely make it to the top one day. That might not happen next year … but it will happen.