Arkansas' 16th commitment for the 2016 class became its first signee Wednesday.
Terrance Deion Malone – an offensive lineman from Northwest Mississippi Community College – signed with the Razorbacks the day after committing. He chose Arkansas over 16 offers, including Memphis and Southern Miss. Mississippi State had also shown interest.
“The main thing about Arkansas that led me in my decision is the history of (head coach Bret Bielema) and how he prepares his players for the next level,” Malone said.
While offensive line coach Sam Pittman has a reputation for producing NFL-caliber offensive linemen, Malone said Bielema has just as good of a resume in that department.
That’s why Pittman’s departure from Arkansas to join Kirby Smart’s staff at Georgia didn’t factor into Malone’s decision.
“It really didn’t because, like I said, Coach B has a history up in Wisconsin of still putting out o-linemen,” Malone said. “I know he’s going to find a coach that will get me better and take my game to the next level.”
Bielema is glad to add Malone to his roster and expects him to provide immediate help.
"Deion is another example of a young man who has had success on and off the field,” Bielema said in a statement. “He will join us in January for school and drills that should have an immediate impact on the interior offensive line."
The Razorbacks have recent success with junior college offensive linemen.
Sebastian Tretola came to Arkansas from Iowa Western Community College and has started 23 straight games at left guard, earning first-team all-SEC honors this year.
“I looked into (Tretola’s) background and his history,” Malone said. “I saw that he was a junior college guy. I know if I come in and do what I can do, I can be in the same situation he is, which is getting national honors and hopefully getting into the NFL.”
Another factor in his decision to come to Arkansas was the facilities and the fan base that supports the team.
“It’s a nice environment,” Malone said. “If you go to Arkansas, the main school you hear about is the Razorbacks. Everybody loves the team and it’s like a family down there.”
Despite Memphis and Southern Miss being closer to his home, the opportunity to branch out was also an exciting aspect to coming to Arkansas.
“My mom always told me that there was people around here that went to Southern Miss and some that went to Memphis,” Malone said. “We have people that go to Ole Miss and Mississippi State.
“The one thing we haven’t had was somebody go to Arkansas.”
He will sign with the Razorbacks Wednesday.
Malone said he doesn’t think he’ll be able to practice with the team during their bowl practices leading up to the Liberty Bowl, but he said he would be with them first thing in January, meaning he’ll participate in spring practice.
“I get more time to learn plays, more time to get used to the players,” Malone said. “It’s real big being a midyear guy.”
When he arrives on campus, Malone will bring with him a winning mentality, as he helped Northwest Mississippi CC to an 11-1 record and a NJCAA national championship this season.
Malone - who joins Urbandale, Iowa, four-star prospect Jake Heinrich as Arkansas' only two offensive line commits - said he hopes to continue winning like that with the Razorbacks.
“That’s what I’m hoping for,” Malone said. “They have eight or nine returning players on defense and their offense has returning players, so it could be a big year.”