Gragg Pledges To Be A Razorback

Arkansas continued its recruiting momentum on Tuesday when Dumas four-star tight end Will Gragg (6-4, 245) commits to the Razorbacks and becomes the 14th member of a recruiting class that now includes seven four-star pledges and is ranked No. 19 nationally.

DUMAS – It may have been Dumas tight end Will Gragg's 18th birthday, but it was Arkansas head football coach Bret Bielema and his staff and Razorback fans who must feel like they got a big-time gift-wrapped package on Tuesday morning.

That's when Gragg (6-4, 245) - four-star prospect thought to have hauled in more scholarship offers (45) than anybody in Arkansas prep football history – announced that he was staying home to play his college football and means the Razorbacks have pledges for the state's top eight players.

Gragg (6-4, 245), the brother of former Razorback tight end and current Buffalo Bill tight end Chris Gragg, chose to pledge to the Razorbacks over a final group of schools that also included Alabama, Ole Miss, Texas, Mississippi State and LSU.

“After much deliberation, I have decided to roll with the Hogs,” Gragg said. “When I talked it over with my family, I prayed about it and Coach B is just doing a great job with the tight ends with Hunter Henry and those guys, and you have talent like we do in the class of 2015 in the state of Arkansas, it is hard to pass up being with those guys and going up on the Hill.”

Gragg's commitment moved the Arkansas' class to No. 19 nationally according to Scout.com with half of their 14 commits being four-star prospects and an average star ranking of 3.50 - the highest in around 20 years for the program.

"It's turning into a great, great class," said Gragg, who is regarded as the nation's fourth-best tight end according to Scout.com and is one of at least six players that are mid-term graduates on the Arkansas commit list.

Gragg has caught 18 passes foe 187 yards and two touchdowns through his team's 1-2 start so far this season after finishing last season with 29 catches for 312 yards and 5 touchdowns last year while playing for Pine Bluff.

Arkansas offensive coordinator Jim Chaney made it clear that to Gragg that last year's run-dominated offense was not what he has in mind for the future.

“He said that they didn't really air it out a lot last year because they didn't have the type of playmakers that they wanted, but this year (quarterback) Brandon Allen is a little more experienced and we're getting some playmakers around him so he wants to air the ball out like he did at Tennessee.”

Dumas head coach Mark Courtney is happy with the way things have turned out for Gragg, who played the last two seasons at Pine Bluff before his dad Kelvin was named Superintendent at Dumas.

“It's a big day for the him, a big day for his family, it's a big day for the state of Arkansas,” Courtney said. “Will is a great kid and football player on the field and off the field. He's got a very good work ethic in the classroom as well as on the field. I think it's a big win for the state of Arkansas for him to stay in state.”

Courtney was once the coach at East Poinsett County when former Razorback football and basketball player Marcus Monk was going through the recruiting process.

“He's go very good support around him with his family and Chris,” Courtney said of Gragg. “ He knew I had been through this before with Marcus Monk and some of them and we sat down for about an hour and just talked about it. I try not to influence a kid to go anywhere but I try and be as honest as I can and if you're an Arkansas kid and if you want to retire in Arkansas and be an Arkansas guy you need to go to Arkansas.

“You build a support staff wherever you go you build relationships with people you went to school with,” Courtney added, “and so like I told him Alabama is a great program but when it's all said and done, do you want to live in Alabama the rest of your life, do you want to live in Mississippi the rest of your life?”

Gragg and his friend K.J. Hill - the four-star North Little Rock wideout who committed to Arkansas last month – both still plan to take all five of their official visits at this point, but have also been very public in recruiting other players to the Razorback program.

“It is a dream that we have all wanted to do and we have had a group that is going since about the 10th grade,” Gragg said. “We have those guys – (quarterback) Ty (Storey) committed first and then Jamario (Bell) and the other guys. They had a tremendous influence on me because you always want to play around good players and know that you know a lot better and know they are all great players, we can come out there and change some things.”

The Razorbacks now have eight pledges from the talented 2015 in-state class in Arkansas.

“You just didn't want to be the guy left out and who doesn't succeed,” Gragg said. “Those guys have a great amount of talent and we are trying to do something that has been done before, but we are now trying to get it back to where it was before...getting to playoffs and championships and things like that and I think with the talent we have around us we can.”

He admitted that the other Arkansas recruits coming on board made it an easier choice.

“They played a tremendous role in it because you always want to play around good players,” Gragg said. “I think with those guys we have as much talent as the '08 class with Jarius Wright and Joe Adams. I feel like that had a big impact on it. We are brothers now. We knew each other the whole time through this process and it is good to make it official.”

The current 2015 haul includes a trio of the nation's best tight end pledges in Gragg, Fayetteville's C.J. O'Grady and Roland, Okla., star Austin Cantrell.

“With Coach Bielema, actually on his depth chart he lists two positions as tight ends because he likes to do a lot of 22 personnel,” Gragg said. “Whenever you get a chance to be that second guy or that first guy, you have to take the opportunity. None of the other schools I was considering ran the tight ends like he does.”

Cantrell is expected to see time at fullback and H-back as well as tight end.

“I definitely want to see the ball and with Coach B, he has seven tight ends in the NFL and we are hoping to make it three more,” Gragg said. “The way he uses the tight ends, the way he is using Hunter and A.J and those guys that makes you want to be a part of Tight End U.”

Gragg also has a great relationship with Arkansas tight ends coach Barry Lunney, Jr.

“We have been talking since probably that December since Coach Bielema got hired and he brought his whole staff in and he has been on me non-stop,” Gragg said, “and whether he got a commitment from another guy or not, he always told me that I was a priority for them and once he got C.J. and Austin, they started recruiting me as well. There are no hard feelings between all three of our tight ends. We just want to come out there and do what haven't been done in awhile.”

Gragg noted that he takes pride in both being an all-around tight end with his blocking and receiving.

“I really take pride in both,” Gragg said. “You have to be able to block if you want to make it to the next level and you also have to makes plays with your hands to be able to catch the ball. I really take time to work on both and really take a great amount of pride in both.”

Gragg also talked about how Henry, the former Pulaski Academy star who was a freshman All-American last season, encouraged him to be a Razorback.

“He is doing it right now at my position and he was a freshman All-American so with him catching a ton of balls and making a lot of plays, I thought I could do the same,” Gragg said.

Gragg noted that he really began to focus solely on Arkansas after a trip to Alabama with Hill and before a trip to Fayetteville with him to see the Razorbacks scrimmage in late August. The deal was all but sealed when the North Little Rock star pledged to Arkansas on Aug. 29.

“I would say that it was that weekend,” Gragg said. “On the way back...we were all talking about it and we didn't really feel like that (Alabama) was the right place for us. Couple weekends after that, we visited Arkansas and we were walking on (Fayetteville's) Maple (Avenue) and we were just thinking 'Dang, I think this is the place.' I officially knew Aug. 29.”

It hasn't hurt at all that Arkansas appears to be a different team than the one that went 3-9 overall last season and 0-8 in SEC play.

The Razorbacks are 3-1 so far this season with the loss being a conference one to Auburn.

“I have seen they just have a different type of swagger about themselves,” Gragg said. “They are playing loose, they are playing fundamentally sound, they are playing physical. Their O-line is getting it and J-Will (Jonathan Williams) and Buddha (Alex Collins) are running the ball great. Those guys are going to make a run this weekend at A&M.”

Arkansas could get all of the state's top 10 players – according to the Hawgs Illustrated's rankings – if Nashville wide receiver LaMichael Pettway comes aboard and Fayetteville safety/linebacker Dre Greenlaw gets a Razorback offer and flips from his current Arkansas State commit.

“I think it can happen, I think it can happen,” Gragg said. “It would be an unprecedented thing and I think would could get it back to when the '08 class signed.”

Gragg is excited about the opportunity to catch passes from current Arkansas quarterbacks Brandon Allen and Rafe Peavey and his 2015 classmate Storey.

“It was good because Ty is a top 10 quarterback (nationally) and you want to play with somebody that can throw you the ball,” Gragg said. “I know in our freshman season, BA will still be up there, but after that it is between him and Rafe and those are definitely two guys that you want to have on your side throwing the ball.”

Gragg noted that his older brother didn't try to steer him one way or another, but he was happy about the choice.

“He never steered me in a direction of Arkansas,” Gragg said. “He always said it would be cool and this and that, but he never steered me in any direction to commit or go to one direction over another. He played a tremendous influence and since he can't be here (today) I wore his jersey. That's my boy.”

Gragg and Hill both have plans to make other visits still, but that is only in case something drastic happens at Arkansas – such as the dismissal of Bobby Petrino back in 2012.

“I just want to see different places and see if I get a different feel or something happens at the University of Arkansas like it did with Coach Petrino,” Gragg said. “You never know, coaching changes can happen in a day or in some hours, so you always want to have a back-up plan or a Plan B or Plan C.”





Will Gragg poses with his mom Tenita, his dad Kelvin and a Dumas Bobcat after his press conference on Tuesday.





Dumas cheerleaders unfurl a banner after Gragg commits to the Razorbacks.


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