SDS’ top 25 players of 2012: No. 13 Matt Elam

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SDS is continually counting down the top 25 players in the SEC for 2012, and we’re not stopping until we get to that sexy No. 1. We don’t just rank stats or project players at the next level based on athletic superiority, but we rank players based on the season they had in 2012. I know you’ll agree with every single one…

No. 13 – Matt Elam, Florida, Safety

2012 Stats: 76 total tackles, 11 tackles for loss, two sacks, four INTs, five breakups and one forced fumble

Why he’s worthy: If Will Muschamp could design the perfect violent run-stopping safety for his defense, it would be Matt Elam. The 5-10, 210-pound safety’s measurements may not jump off the page, but what he may lack in size he makes up for in toughness and instincts.

Elam was the quarterback of the Gators’ top defense. Florida often left their corners in one-on-one man coverage with Elam creeping up to the box to play the run. And he wouldn’t miss tackles either. Because of Florida’s ability to cover with great corner play, it freed Elam up to do what he does best – violently attack opposing ball carriers.

Elam finished second on Florida in tackles with 76 and finished second in tackles for loss behind Sharrif Floyd with 11 and three sacks. He was the biggest key cog on the Gators’ defense with four interceptions. And he did it all wearing pink socks, with his abs exposed for the ladies.

Elam’s best game came on one of the biggest stages against LSU. Not only did he put the Tigers to bed, but no play was bigger throughout the entirety of Florida’s brilliant season than Elam’s forced fumble against LSU’s Odell Beckham.

With Florida eking out a 7-6 lead, LSU broke a big play on a busted coverage for a 56-yard gain, but Elam sprinted over and pried the ball from Beckham’s hands as he attempted a stiff arm. Florida recovered the fumble and held LSU scoreless in the second half to go on to win 14-6.

Elam has been projected by most as a first-round pick in April’s draft, and he’ll take his fierce game to the next level as one of the SEC’s 32 underclassmen that declared.

The Countdown

Photo Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

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