'He's a violent tackler,' Florida coach Will Muschamp says about Matt Elam

The Baltimore Sun

Uncoiling his body while accelerating into the Louisiana State backfield, Florida safety Matt Elam delivered a punishing tackle that launched big running back Spencer Ware into the air and careening onto his back.

In another sequence on this highlight video, Elam crushes an unsuspecting Louisville wide receiver who was bobbling the football. The All-American selection also displays sound range and instinctive coverage skills.

It's the kind of devastating tackling and athleticism that prompted the Ravens to draft Elam with the 32nd and final pick of the first round.

The Super Bowl champions acquired Elam to inject toughness into a secondary that lost bruising strong safety Bernard Pollard this offseason when he was released.

Florida coach Will Muschamp, one of the top defensive minds in college football, grew accustomed to watching Elam disrupt opposing offenses with his physical nature.

"He's a physical, tough football player," Muschamp said today during a conference call with Baltimore reporters. "He plays the game the way it's supposed to be played. He throws his body around. He's got ball hawk ability. I think he's going to be outstanding. ...

"He's a violent tackler. He's got really good explosion. He can really snap his hits. He can be a box safety. He can play with range."

Elam loves to hit and provide an intimidating presence.

"I'm going to make the receiver be scared that he's not going to come my way next time," Elam said after the Ravens drafted him.

Elam has run the 40-yard dash in 4.43 seconds and had a 37-inch vertical leap, but is somewhat undersized -- officially he's 5 feet 9 at an eighth of an inch below 5-10 -- and 208 pounds. He has a compact build and bench pressed 225 pounds 17 times.

"I just feel like my size really doesn't matter, because when you turn on the film, I'm a great competitor, I'm flying around," Elam said. "I'm hitting guys, I'm hitting guys bigger than me, so I feel like size doesn't really matter. I feel like you turn on the film, it tells it all. I feel like I competed well, and I will compete well because of the heart I have and how I work."

Muschamp is convinced that Elam won't have problems adjusting to the NFL because of his skills and work ethic.

As for Elam lacking height, Muschamp isn't concerned.

“I think again that can be a little overrated at times," Muschamp said. "What’s the difference between 5-10 and 6-foot? He has great leaping ability, and he has really good ball judgment. As far as playing the ball and getting the ball off of people and being strong-handed in coverage, are things that, I think, are some of his strengths. I think that overcomes those two inches that people may point at.”

In three seasons for the Gators, Elam finished with 176 tackles, six interceptions, three forced fumbles and 19 pass deflections.

"You turn on the tape and it's pretty obvious football is very important to him," Muschamp said. "They'll get a great competitor. He enjoys playing the game. He's extremely intelligent, a really good communicator. He sees the game really well.

"He's got to adapt to the NFL game, the different hashmarks, going against the caliber of athletes and adjusting to the speed of the game. It's a natural thing, but I go back to the fact that he's a very mature young man."



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