With Alabama’s stunning loss to arch-rival Auburn in its rear-view mirror, Nick Saban immediately turned his attention to a place where the Tide’s dynasty was built: the recruiting trail.
Considering that Gus Malzahn’s offense racked up 296 yards rushing by gashing through the heart of the Tide’s vaunted front seven, one of the first recruits he should visit is Elizabethtown, Ky. (John Hardin HS) 5-star defensive tackle Matt Elam.
The 6’6”, 350-pound man-child is expected to announce his commitment at next month’s U.S. Army All-American Game, with most observers feeling that his decision will come down to Kentucky and Alabama.
Saban and the Tide clearly aren’t used to losing battles on the field, or on the recruiting trail.
That’s why the loss to Auburn has Saban and his staff searching for answers in the form of adding a few difference-makers to their top-rated 2014 recruiting class.
With those three pledges, and the collection of defensive linemen already on campus, it won’t be a crippling blow if Elam elects to stay home or go elsewhere.
However, what makes Elam such a prized commodity is his combination of athleticism and agility wrapped in a 350-pound package.
Elam was already a player that Saban has aggressively pursued, and he is likely one of the most important recruits left on the board from now until national signing day. Now, his importance is magnified because he is exactly the type of run-plugging force that could wreak havoc against a ground-oriented assault such as the one employed by the Tigers.
Alabama’s defense, which prides itself on stopping the run, has been at its best with supersized nose guards such as Terrance Cody and Jesse Williams fortifying the middle of the Tide’s three-man front.
Getting a big body like Elam and pairing him with young and freakishly athletic linemen such as A’Shawn Robinson and Da’Shawn Hand, is the perfect counter against a hurry-up, no-huddle attack predicated on gashing teams up the middle and on the edges.
Considering the talent Alabama has stockpiled at linebacker and in the secondary in recent years, Elam is a pivotal recruit who can provide an anchor that can make it impossible for teams to find running room in between the tackles.
Auburn made a statement in its win over Alabama. More so than just beating the Tide, it was the physical manner in which they accomplished their victory that raised the eyebrows of many fans and observers.
For Saban, landing an elite run-stuffing defensive tackle such as Elam is the first step in making sure that history doesn’t repeat itself when the Tigers visit Bryant-Denny Stadium next season.