John Clay

Matt Elam is getting down with improvement, and more random notes

Matt Elam is improving

Kentucky defensive coordinator Matt House and defensive line coach Derrick LeBlanc talk about senior nose guard Matt Elam.
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Kentucky defensive coordinator Matt House and defensive line coach Derrick LeBlanc talk about senior nose guard Matt Elam.

Random notes:

▪  So how is Kentucky nose guard Matt Elam doing this fall camp after being the target of summer criticism?

“He’s improved,” said UK defensive coordinator Matt House on Wednesday. “He’s got to continue to improve. I do think his pad level has improved from last year. He’s being a little bit more disruptive. But he still needs to be more consistent.”

SEC Network analyst Greg McElroy, the former Alabama quarterback, labeled Elam lazy and an underachiever after the former five-star prospect has failed to become a force heading into his senior season.

“He’s doing good,” defensive line coach Derrick LeBlanc said Wednesday. “I think he’s a lot different than what he was. Is he where he wants to be? No, not yet. We’ve only got a week and a half left, so we’ll find out with this final scrimmage on Saturday how that guy is.”

LeBlanc said the 6-foot-7, 360-pounder has done a better job of bending his knees and keeping down — “We took away the kind of pop-up-and-peek deal,” LeBlanc said — and being more physical.

“His work ethic we’re still working on a little bit,” LeBlanc said. “For a big man, it’s hard, for any big man.”

▪  Last season, Kentucky true freshman running back Benny Snell convinced the coaches in practice he needed to play in games. He went on to rush for over 1,000 yards.

I think the young receivers are making a push. (Isaiah) Epps, (Josh) Ali, Clevan (Thomas), Lynn Bowden. You’ve got JaVonte (Richardson).

UK offensive coordinator Eddie Gran

So I asked offensive coordinator Eddie Gran on Tuesday if there are any players at this point in camp who are making the same sort of case.

“I think the young receivers are making a push,” he said. “(Isaiah) Epps, (Josh) Ali, Clevan (Thomas), Lynn Bowden. You’ve got JaVonte (Richardson). I think all of them are making a push. We’re not gonna be able to play them all but we’ll see again after this next weekend.”

▪  On NBC’s Hall of Fame Game broadcast, ex-Bengals receiver and NBC analyst Cris Collinsworth said that Lexingtonian and former Cleveland Browns defensive back Frank Minnifield “probably won’t get a vote for the Hall of Fame, but he gave me more trouble than anybody.”

▪  If you’re not ready for soccer as a major sport, you had better get ready. Cincinnati drew a crowd of 33,250 for FC Cincinnati’s match with the New York Red Bulls of the MLS on Tuesday night.

▪  Mike DeCourcy rejects the assertion that with Marvin Bagley’s commitment, Duke should be preseason No. 1. At the Sporting News, Mike wrote: “He will be a scoring force in college. That seems undeniable given his size, athletic talent and knack for putting the ball in the goal from so many places on the court. Whether he will be a champion is a tougher call. Because to date Bagley has not been a consistent winner.”

▪  Once again I am one of the few Americans not on any of the college football award watch lists.

▪  Controversy aside, Bengals rookie running back Joe Mixon certainly looked the real deal in Cincinnati’s first exhibition game last Friday.

▪  In our continuing effort to find Cincinnati Reds bright spots, we point to rookie pitcher Luis Castillo, who pitched six scoreless, two-hit innings against the Cubs in Wrigley Field on Tuesday night. Over his 11 starts, the 24-year-old now owns a 3.39 ERA.

▪  I’m picking Arrogate to bounce back from his puzzling fourth-place finish in the San Diego Handicap last month and win Saturday’s Pacific Classic at Del Mar. Then again, I picked Always Dreaming in the Jim Dandy and Irish War Cry in the Haskell.

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