John Sommers II
Safeties are often the physical catalysts of a team's defense. Often brash and aggressive, they are key contributors in run defense. While Florida's Matt Elam has outstanding physical skill, reviewing his film in 2012 begs the question about how interested he is in hitting as opposed to attempting to make plays.
Putting aside any preconceived notion of Florida's big-hit-big-play safety Matt Elam, one might dare to call him lazy.
It's odd to see a player with his build (a muscular 205 pounds) standing around looking at a pile of his teammates hitting and attempting to drive an offensive player, but in Florida's game against rival Florida State, Elam looked like he was more interested in the play ending as opposed to what happened between the whistles.
But you see him high-point a ball on an interception, and knife into the backfield to make a stop, and you see where some would call him a playmaker.
More than anything, you see the effort he puts forward as a gunner on Florida's punt team, and you want to talk yourself out of accusations of apathy.
He makes it difficult to do that, however.
Florida State had two plays in their goal line offense. Elam took a step off the edge both times, and watched two runs up the middle, even daring to take a step toward the pile but wasn't willing to attempt to drive it backward. Another goal line play earlier in the game, he was standing with his hands on his hips as the offense changed its play at the line of scrimmage.
That seemed strange, considering he doesn't seem to make solo tackles as much as he piles on (it's fair to point out the tackle statistic in college is usually kept by each respective team). If a player is at or around the line of scrimmage, he will get involved. If the ball carrier is down the field, however, if another player has him, he seems to be content just watching.
This was perhaps best demonstrated on a play against FSU, when the ball carrier ran through Elam's arm tackle. Elam then sat and watched as the player drug three of his teammates nearly over the goal line.
You gotta worry about a safety who doesn't want to stick his nose in the fight.
He seemed a bit more interested during Florida's game against Texas A&M and he did a nice job in coverage as well as in spy duties on Johnny Manziel. The Gators defense locked the Aggies down, much like they did to most of their opponents this season.
Against LSU, he showed some outstanding open field tackling ability (and even crushed his teammate in a post-tackle celebration on special teams). There were times again, though, where it seemed like he was more interested in joining the fight instead of starting it - unless the ball carrier was at or near the line of scrimmage. He rushed over quickly when he saw an LSU ball carrier nearing the sideline at the line of scrimmage, and despite the player being clearly out of bounds, Elam whipped him into his own bench, drawing a 15-yard penalty.
There's little doubt in his physical ability; he's strong, quick, athletic and very smart. It's clear why teams would want him, but having watched other safety prospects Kenny Vaccaro and Oklahoma's Tony Jefferson - two players with whom Elam very well could beat in terms of skill - Elam doesn't stand out in terms of effort or fire. While he has decent lateral speed, and good straight-line speed, his film shows he is an able tackler, but not always a willing one.
That being said, he's not likely to escape the first round, but there's very little chance the Steelers would take him with the 17th overall pick.