It's high noon Thursday for Stoops in quest for Elam

broberts@herald-leader.comJanuary 29, 2014 

Matt Elam has long been the No. 1 recruiting priority for Kentucky football coach Mark Stoops.

PHOTO PROVIDED

Twenty seven down, and one to go.

The University of Kentucky football staff added offensive lineman Jervontius Stallings to its highly touted recruiting class Wednesday, leaving just one spot to fill ahead of next week's national signing day.

That spot is reserved for in-state standout Matt Elam, the five-star defensive tackle who will announce his college decision Thursday at noon from John Hardin High School.

Elam has long been the No. 1 recruiting priority for Mark Stoops and the UK staff. Stallings emerged in recent days as the program's No. 2 target.

The 6-foot-4, 305-pound interior lineman from Hoover, Ala., is considered only a two-star prospect by Rivals.com, an under-the-radar late bloomer who didn't attract much attention until late in his senior season.

UK was among the first schools to offer him a scholarship, and the Cats ultimately beat out Mississippi State for his commitment. 247Sports ranks him as a three-star recruit. He does not have a designated star ranking from Scout.com or ESPN.

Stallings is the 27th commitment for the Class of 2014, and Stoops has publicly said that he will sign a total of 28 players to his first full recruiting class at UK.

Elam is one of the most highly touted high school players from Kentucky in years. He picked up scholarship offers from Notre Dame, Ohio State, Tennessee and others before whittling his list down to UK and Alabama in December.

UK assistant coaches Neal Brown, D.J. Eliot and Jimmy Brumbaugh visited Elam in Elizabethtown on Wednesday, and three assistants from Alabama are expected to meet with him before his announcement Thursday.

247Sports ranks Elam as the No. 21 overall prospect in the senior class.

John Hardin Coach Chad Lewis has accompanied Elam on many of his campus visits and was with him in Texas earlier this month when he was scheduled to announce his decision during a nationally televised all-star game before backing out the morning of the event.

It's been a tough conclusion to reach, but Elam is finally ready to share it.

"What people don't realize is that Matt is still a 17-year-old kid, and there's so much pressure to this decision," Lewis said last week. "It's going to be hard for him to tell either school 'no' at this point. He's developed close relationships with those guys. And when you develop relationships with people you don't want to feel like you're letting somebody down.

"Matt's a people pleaser. He doesn't want people to think that he's let them down or hurt their feelings. And, at the end of this, I hope it's not ugly with either school, because Matt would not want that. Obviously, it wouldn't have carried on this long if he truly wasn't torn."

Ben Roberts: (859) 231-3216. Twitter: @NextCats. Blog: ukrecruiting.bloginky.com.

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