Arkansas has added a much-needed component to its 2015 recruiting class with the addition of Wachula, Fla., Hardee linebacker Derrick Graham (6-4, 225) early Tuesday morning.
Graham made his decision public on his birthday via a teleconference with media and chose the Razorbacks over co-finalists Mississippi State and Florida.
The three-star prospect per Scout.com noted during the teleconference that he had privately committed to the Arkansas coaches during his official visit on Sept. 19-21.
“This process was a humbling experience with all the trials and tribulations that I have endured over the past years,” Graham said in beginning his announcement. “I must give thanks to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for giving me this opportunity as well as the ability to be setting in this position at this time.
“I would also like to thank my family for their support and prayers and last – but not least – I would like to thank my teammates, (Hardee head) Coach (Buddy) Martin and the coaching staff for welcoming me on the team as well as giving me another chance," Graham added.
“This has been a very difficult decision, but I feel this is the best opportunity for me – I will be attending the University of Arkansas where I will be attending the agriculture business school.," Graham continued.
Graham was actually born in Gainsville, Fla., - home of the University of Florida - before moving away before he started the ninth grade and grew up a fan of the SEC.
Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema, linebacker coach Randy Shannon and defensive coordinator spearheaded the recruitment of Graham, whose addition gives the Razorbacks' 18 commits in the 2015 class and bumped them up to 16th nationally in Scout.com's national rankings.
“Playing in the SEC has always been a dream for me while growing up in Florida and rooting for the Gators,” Graham said. “Now I will have the opportunity to play against some of the best talent in the nation week in and week out.
“I feel that Coach B, Coach Robb Smith and Coach Shannon are great coaches and will continue to develop me as a player and also as a man,” Graham continued.
Graham, who says he won't take any other visits, lauded the coaches for being genuine with him and said they were the main factor in his decision.
“That would be the coaches,” Graham said. “Through the whole process, they have been genuine. What I got from them is that I can be whatever I want to be and that I can be a great football player.
“They brought me in and they showed me that they actually want to win, that they actually want to compete for the SEC Championship,” Graham added later. “With that and them just being good guys all around, it was just a perfect fit.”
Shannon the former Miami head coach, has known Graham for several years and will be his position coach.
“It was a major impact knowing that he is the coach that he is and the person that he is also,” Graham said. “It was a big part of the decision as well as Coach B and Coach Robb Smith.”
He noted that he actually committed to the Razorback coaches on his official visit.
“The environment after the game was just amazing, with the crowd and the players after the game in the locker room,” Graham said. “It was just wonderful being up there and being able to see that.”
Graham says his biggest strength right now is getting to the quarterback while he needs to work on his coverage skills.
“Rushing the passer is one of my big things,” Graham said. “Me covering, I think I can grow in doing that – covering tight ends and running backs and stuff like that. Me being as long as I can there is no limit to my abilities.”
Graham joins Fayetteville safety-linebacker Dre Greenlaw, Junction City defensive end Jamario Bell, defensive linemen Hajalte Froholdt of Denmark, Daytrieon Dean of Fort Smith Northside and Jeremiah Ledbetter of Hutchinson, Kan., Community College as current defensive pledges.
That defensive group could also include Nashville standout and Arkansas commit LaMichael Pettway, who will play either wide receiver, linebacker or safety.
Arkansas Adds LB Graham To 2015 Pledge Class
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