The wait was a long one for University of South Alabama offensive lineman James Elliot. After six weeks and five games into the season, Elliot has been allowed to play this season, including Saturday’s upcoming game, through an NCAA hardship waiver.
After beginning his colligate career at the University of Kentucky, Elliot’s mother, Pamela, became seriously ill at her home in Pensacola. He quickly transferred to South to be closer to home and requested a hardship waiver from the NCAA that, if accepted, would allow him to play for the Jags immediately.
“It’s a huge weight off my shoulders,” Elliott said following Tuesday’s practice to the Mobile Press-Register. “It’s unbelievable how much you don’t think about it but it just weighs you down knowing that you’re practicing every day but on Saturday’s you have to lay back. But it feels great now.”
Elliot has been with the Jags since the spring taking reps with the team which has “freed us up to move some other guys around and practice some guys in different spots, which helps our depth,” said offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Robert Matthews.
That depth could prove useful on an offensive line that has given up 14 sacks and only scored 3 rushing touchdowns in just five games. The 6-foot-2, 290-pound redshirt freshman Elliot may finally be able to see action on the field this weekend after redshirting for Kentucky last year, according to Matthews.
Elliot was highly recruited coming out of high school and was ranked as the number 2 guard recruit in Florida and had offers from all over the country as well as in the Sun Belt with schools like Florida International, Florida Atlantic and Middle Tennessee.
Despite all of the troubles and hardships, Elliot is just happy to be back on the field on Saturday’s.
“That’s what Saturdays are for. That’s what everything builds up to is game day Saturday. But everything starts on the practice field and in the weight room. It’s just a different feeling knowing that – it’s like you’re a part of it all now. Before you were just a block. Now you’re filling a role.”