ELIZABETHTOWN — Matt Elam is already one of the most highly touted high school football players in the country, but he knows exactly what he needs to do to get better.
“Conditioning,” he said without pause. “Just getting my stamina up.”
His coaches agree.
John Hardin Coach Chad Lewis said Elam, who has a 6-foot-6 frame, is playing at about 370 pounds this season.
“That’s the No. 1 thing that he’s got to improve,” Lewis told the Herald-Leader. “We’ve harped on it all year. He’s probably about 370 right now. And he should be in the 335, 340 range. He plays so much quicker with 30 pounds off of him. That’s got to be his No. 1 thing. He’s got to get the weight off, especially to get ready to go at the next level.”
The college coaches recruiting Elam have said the same thing. UK, Alabama, Notre Dame, Tennessee, Ohio State and Louisville are the schools that want his commitment. Lewis said they’re all in agreement on what Elam needs to do before he plays college football.
“They’ve all said, ‘If you’re coming here, you’re going to lose 30 or 40 pounds,'” he said.
None of this is news to Elam, who says he’s been running and lifting weights after practice. He’s also going to the gym on his own.
A recent shakeup to the John Hardin roster might help him work some of that weight off.
The team’s starting center suffered a dislocated shoulder last week that put him out of action. On Monday, that job went to Elam.
The defensive tackle has never been a center in his life, but he’ll be playing both ways Friday night against Jeffersontown.
“Kind of nervous about it,” Elam said. “I don’t want to mess up the snaps. But it’s been going real good. I don’t think Coach (Lewis) or me thought it was going to be this good. … My QB said I was doing really good at it.”
Playing on both sides of the ball might help him get in better shape in the short term, but Elam and his coaches know that getting into the right condition for college football will be a long process.
Lewis said he’ll need to get a nutritionist, work on a daily regimen and incorporate some cardio workouts into his conditioning.
Rivals.com analyst Woody Wommack said Elam will have access to everything he needs to get in the right shape once he lands on a college campus. But the star recruit will also need to make his conditioning a priority.
“He’s a big body and his conditioning could use some work,” Wommack told the Herald-Leader. “And that’s going to happen. He’s going to go to one of these big-time programs. He’s definitely going to improve. But he’s going to have to be willing to get there and put in the work.”
Wommack scouted Elam during John Hardin’s game against perennial powerhouse Highlands earlier this season. Both player and analyst have acknowledged that Elam didn’t have his best showing in that contest.
Wommack said it’s important for a player as highly touted as Elam to perform well against other top competition. Elam will get another chance to prove himself in January, when he plays in the Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio.
That will be a big off-the-field event for Elam — it’s where he’s announcing his college decision — but it’ll also be an important week on the field.
“He’s a great kid. … But I really want to see him dominate against the top-flight competition,” Wommack said. “That’s when you know you really have an elite guy — when he looks the part physically and then he goes out there and does it on the field also.
“He’s going to be going one on one against some of the best players in the country all week long. That’ll be a good test for him.”