Position Rank: #3
His Recruiting Story
That Brandon Graham was so successful stepping in at linebacker during his junior campaign for Johnny Thompson was somewhat surprising … not because he isn't a great athlete, but because he had not played the position before. "I had 132 tackles, 60 solos, 5 interceptions with 3 returns, and one punt return for a touchdown," Graham said regarding his junior year stats. "A lot of people knew about me at defensive end because my 10th grade year, the year that Johnny was here, I had 50 tackles and 20 sacks as a D-end. Last year was my first year at linebacker." The Wolverines obviously saw enough in Graham's first season in a stand up position to warrant a personal conversation with Coach Carr. Michigan's veteran headman offered the hard-hitting youngster a scholarship in early February. "He told me about how much film of me he had seen and that he liked what he saw. He said he wanted to offer me a scholarship." Graham wasted little time pondering his decision and committed to the Maize and Blue on February 20th, 2005.
In the months since his verbal pledge, many pundits speculated that the 6-2, 250-pounder's commitment status may not be firm because of past mention of taking other visits. According to his parents, any such talk was misguided. "He's going to U of M," his dad Darrick Walton said in November. "No doubt! All of that soft verbal stuff…throw that out of the window! U of M baby! WOOOOOO! I've been a Wolverine fan all of my life. My family…his family…we're all Wolverine fans. All we were waiting on was for Michigan to give us an offer. We weren't waiting on anybody else. We were waiting for Lloyd to say we want you! A'int nothing soft about his verbal!"
Aside from his boyhood affinity for the Maize and Blue, there were a few very significant factors that made it clear to Graham that Michigan was the place for him. "There are so many reasons why, but there are a couple of main ones," Graham said. "For one … the education. The education is really good and they have a lot to choose from up there. Second is the football program. I think they have an A-1 program. They go to a bowl game every year. I'm thinking I'm going to be good at Michigan with the Blue on."
Graham was the first player from the state of Michigan to play in the annual Army All-American Bowl.
GoBlueWolverine got its first look at Graham when he turned in a 6-tackle/2-sack performance against Farmington Hills Harrison in August of 2003. That said, it wasn't until we saw him playing linebacker in August of 2004 against Harper Woods Notre Dame at the Pontiac Silverdome that we knew he was an elite player. Size, strength, the ability to deliver a blow, and SPEED.
"With Johnny here (in 2003), we didn’t have a need for a linebacker," Crockett defensive coordinator Dayshawn Franklin said. "We didn't know where we were going to put him. I was defensive line coach and I wanted him, so we made him a defensive end. We didn’t move Brandon to middle linebacker until the day before our first scrimmage (prior to his junior year). We had about a week and a half before our first game and we were sitting in practice watching our backers. We had lost two Big Ten linebackers from the year before to graduation, so everybody that came in was fresh. We thought our two first-year guys were going to be able to do it, but we watched practice and we were a little bit slower than we thought. I had Brandon at one D-end and Trevor Anderson (who signed with Cincinnati) at the other. As the D-line coach I was happy, but I couldn’t sleep. I knew that we had hole in our defense. I had to come out and do something. I said, 'we have got to move Brandon up.' He hadn’t played linebacker since J-V football, and even then it was just on instinct, but there was no question about it in my mind. From the day we stood him up it was the best move that we made for our team. I think it was one of the biggest reasons our defense was so good. We filled that middle hole."
"There are a couple of plays that he made (during his junior year) that really stick out," Franklin said. "Both came when we were playing big time runningbacks. The first one came against Blevins from Denby. All week, we as a staff were saying, 'they're going to have to meet in the phone both!' We wanted to see who came out the other end. He hit Blevins at Ford Field in the PSL title game and it was a knockout shot! Mommas that don't even know about football went crazy over that one! The same thing happened to Elsworth. It was Brandon that came out the other end."
GBW Scouting Report: Simply put, if there’s
a better high school middle linebacker recruit in the country, I’d like
to see him. Brandon is a kid who can play the inside B gaps very well. He’s
very good at shedding blocks and filling the holes inside. He’s physical
taking on blockers and he can ward off blocks getting to the boundary. He has
outstanding footwork, something I first got a glimpse of watching him at the
Akron Scout.com combine this spring. Graham has natural instincts for a linebacker:
he diagnoses a play fairly well and reacts to the ball with proper steps and
angles. He’s dropped some weight since I saw him in Akron where he weighed
in at 251; he now looks a little slimmer and in better shape which is a plus.
He is a vicious hitter who can lower the boom on some players, but I would like
to see him be a better wrap up tackler. I like his range; he can certainly support
against the outside run. He closes well, and overall is a great athlete who
will only get better once in a strength program like Michigan’s. He can
be a real force as a blitzer in my opinion. I think the one thing he needs to
improve on is coverage and zone drops. He can get turned around sometimes and
he just needs some overall more-polished technique in this area. Athletically,
he is gifted, so once he gets more experience in this facet of his game he will
be just fine.