Posted: 12:55 pm Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

Next up: Tennessee targets UF commit Matt Elam 

By Jason Lieser

No less than 24 hours after Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin and his staff plucked Pahokee wide receiver Nu’Keese Richardson from the University of Florida, they started going after another of the Gators’ prized commits: Dwyer linebacker Matt Elam, who will be a senior this fall.

Dwyer coach Jack Daniels said he got a call from Tennessee assistant Eddie Gran, who also recruited Richardson, the day after national signing day. Gran offered a scholarship to Elam, who orally committed to Florida in October, and fellow junior linebacker Gerald Christian.

Gran told Daniels the Volunteers would not press Elam because of his UF commitment, but…

“I’ve got a bunch of calls from Tennesee in the last few days,” Daniels said Tuesday.

“They acted like they weren’t going to pursue him because he’s committed to Florida, but then I started getting some text messages.”

If you didn’t see this coming, you’re not paying attention.

Let’s start with Elam (6-1, 205). He is one of the country’s top 25 or so recruits in the Class of 2010 and can play virtually any skill position, though he figures to be a safety at the next level. He has a bounty of offers, including Miami, Florida State, Georgia and LSU.

Elam committed to Florida during his junior season and said this week he remains “100 percent for Florida” even after watching Richardson switch.

“Honestly, I don’t think I’ll ever change my mind,” Elam said. “That’s where I want to be at. Nothing could persuade me.

“I won’t change unless the coach changes.”

Elam and his family have a longstanding relationship with Gators coach Urban Meyer, who recruited Elam’s older brother Abram to Notre Dame. That bond is a big difference between Elam’s commitment and Richardson’s.

Elam did not want to comment specifically on Richardson’s situation, but said it did make him realize he should have taken his official visits before locking in on one program.

Also, Elam is on track to graduate after the first semester of his senior year and plans to be enrolled at Florida in time for spring practices.

Back to Kiffin and Tennessee, though.

Daniels has coached Dwyer for 14 years and has a lot of respect the teams and communities in the western part of Palm Beach County. Not only was he offended by Kiffin’s derogatory comments toward the town of Pahokee, he was irked by the way Tennessee snuck behind Blue Devils coach Blaze Thompson’s back while recruiting Richardson.

“That’s a great community out there so it kind of pissed me off, too,” Daniels said.

“I thought the way Tennessee handled it was … you know. I was shocked when I heard it. I don’t understand how they could do that to a high school coach, especially someone so close to Nu’Keese. I think they were dishonest with Blaze and I’m sure that pissed off a lot of coaches.

“But if I was Blaze, I don’t know if they walked into my school if I would talk to them. I’d send somebody else up to talk.”

It’s safe to say Kiffin needs to repair his reputation in this area. However, Daniels would not deter any of his players from picking the Volunteers.

“I’m not going to get in the way of a school recruiting a kid,” he said. “All I’m going to tell a kid is he has an offer from Tennessee.”

Even if Elam sticks with Florida, the Gators will be fighting Tennessee to land Christian (6-3, 225). In addition to those schools, Christian has offers from Miami, LSU, Florida State and Georgia and a few others. Stanford and Notre Dame likely will be in the hunt as well.

Elam was the Post‘s big schools Defensive Player of the Year and won the Lou Groza Player of the Year award as a junior. Christian was a first-team all-area pick and second-team all-state in Class 4A.