University of Kentucky quarterback-of-the-future Drew Barker will be playing on national television Saturday, but he won't be the reason most UK fans tune in to NBC's broadcast of the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
Barker's friend and, he hopes, future teammate Matt Elam is also in the game, and Elam will use the national stage to announce his college decision.
Elam — a highly touted defensive tackle from John Hardin High School — measured at 6-foot-5, 372 pounds earlier in the week. He has arguably been Coach Mark Stoops' top uncommitted target for the past few months and recently narrowed his list to UK and Alabama, turning away offers from Notre Dame, Tennessee, Ohio State and other top schools.
He'll reveal his decision sometime during Saturday's all-star game, which is scheduled to start at 1 p.m.
It's a long-anticipated announcement for Stoops, his coaching staff and even the players who have already committed to UK for next season. Barker, in particular, has worked hard to try to bring Elam with him to Lexington, and the affable defensive lineman has struck up friendships with many of UK's other commitments.
Defensive end Denzel Ware met Elam at a UK camp last year, and the two formed an immediate bond.
"I talk to Matt every day. Matt's a great person to be around," Ware recently told the Herald-Leader. "He's fun and cracks jokes and stuff. Matt is just like another brother to me. If he comes (to UK) or doesn't come, he's still going to be that brother to me. He's a great friend. Me and him are going to be close no matter what the outcome is."
Wide receiver T.V. Williams told the Herald-Leader a couple of weeks ago that he thinks UK is the leader in Elam's recruitment and added that he feels like Elam is already part of their close-knit class.
"I think he really likes Kentucky. He really likes hanging out with all of us," Williams said. "It's his home state, and I think he wants to be home. ... I really think that we have a good shot at getting him."
A commitment from Elam on national television would be a major recruiting coup for the UK coaching staff. But it might not be the only big news that comes out of Saturday's game.
There have been rumblings in recent weeks that Cleveland offensive lineman Marcelys Jones, who has been committed to Ohio State for more than a year, could flip his commitment to the Wildcats and enroll at UK for the spring semester.
Jones — considered a four-star prospect by Rivals.com — has said throughout the week that he's solid with the Buckeyes, but he did take an official visit to Lexington last month and has remained in steady contact with the UK coaching staff.
Rivals.com analyst Josh Helmholdt, who primarily covers Ohio, has been in Texas all week documenting the festivities surrounding the Army All-American Bowl. He's noticed a trend these past few days.
"(Jones) and Elam definitely have been buddy-buddy this week," Helmholdt told the Herald-Leader on Thursday. "And I know that Marcelys has continued to stay in touch with the Kentucky coaches.
"I expect that he is in Columbus next week, but until he is either in class or has a letter of intent signed somewhere, I will never go 100 percent with (a prediction). He is a guy that's certainly one to watch. There's always a chance that something crazy happens with Marcelys Jones."
Ted Ginn Sr. — Jones' high school coach — told the Herald-Leader that Jones "loves" the UK coaching staff and noted that Stoops and lead recruiter Vince Marrow are "doing a great job." Ginn said he's known both coaches for almost 20 years, adding that Stoops recruited his five-star-prospect son, Ted Ginn Jr., when he was defensive backs coach at Miami.
"Those are great people," Ginn said.
When asked about the possibility that his player would flip his commitment from Ohio State to Kentucky, Ginn said he hadn't spoken to Jones recently about the recruitment. But he acknowledged that a surprise could be coming.
"It sounds like something's happening," Ginn said. "But I really don't know."
One more to watch
In addition to Elam, Jones and Barker, the Army All-American Bowl will feature one other senior who has expressed interest in UK this week.
Four-star defensive tackle Travonte Valentine is committed to hometown Miami, but he said Thursday that he will also take official visits to UK and Louisiana State later this month before making a final decision, which will likely come during national signing day on Feb. 5.
Rivals.com ranks Valentine as the No. 14 defensive tackle in the senior class.
U.S. Army All-American Bowl When: 1 p.m. Where: Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas TV: NBC-18
Ben Roberts: (859) 231-3216 Twitter: @NextCatsBlog: ukrecruiting.bloginky.com