North Texas’ pipeline to one of the state’s elite high school programs became a little stronger late Thursday when Johnavhon Grahm decided to follow in the footsteps of so many other DeSoto standouts.
Linebacker Zach Orr and running back Antoinne Jimmerson played key roles for UNT last season, while wide receiver Darius Terrell will make his debut with the Mean Green this fall after transferring from Texas.
UNT’s history of developing former DeSoto players and the comfort zone Grahm found with the program and staff led the defensive end to commit to play for the Mean Green.
Oral commitments are nonbinding. The first day recruits in the class of 2014 can sign national letters of intent is Feb. 5.
Grahm, who is 6-foot-1 and 250 pounds, was recruited by new UNT cornerbacks coach Ryan Walters and is the first player to commit to the Mean Green for its 2014 class.
“After talking to coach Walters and Zach Orr, I felt like North Texas is a good fit for me,” Grahm said. “I fit into their scheme, can make their defensive line better and become a leader.”
Grahm posted seven sacks last season and was a second-team All-District 7-5A selection.
UNT was the first program to make an offer to Grahm, but DeSoto coach Claude Mathis anticipates more offers arriving soon.
“He could be a great college player,” Mathis said. “He has a great work ethic, and we have a great defensive line coach in Donald Miller who will develop him.”
Grahm said that UNT’s coaches say that he has the frame to put on more weight. Mathis said there is a chance Grahm could grow another inch or two before his freshman season in college.
“Johnavhon will continue to grow and get a lot bigger,” Mathis said. “He’s just a junior and has a lot of time left to grow.”
UNT’s coaches told Grahm that they project him as a pass rushing defensive end. Grahm named his ability to use his hands to get past defenders and his footwork as two of his biggest strengths.
The addition of Grahm is one Mathis says will continue to strengthen the bond UNT has with the DeSoto program. Orr is expected to be named a team captain for a third consecutive season this fall, while Jimmerson is one of UNT’s top young players.
“[UNT head coach Dan] McCarney has done a great job,” Mathis said. “He has a pipeline going to North Texas. There are some great kids going there from DeSoto who can play.”
Grahm already has started trying to convince some of his teammates to follow him to Denton. Nick Orr, Zach Orr’s younger brother, is rated as one of the top defensive backs in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and has offers from multiple Football Bowl Subdivision schools in addition to UNT.
“I’ve been talking to Nick about coming with me to North Texas,” Grahm said.
UNT also is recruiting DeSoto defensive lineman Shaquel Jackson.
The relationship UNT has built with the school was a factor in Grahm’s decision to play for the Mean Green.
“It made a big difference to me,” Grahm said. “DeSoto guys have gone there and done well.”
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 or via Twitter at @brettvito.