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DT Ta’Quon Graham opts out of Texas bowl game

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The senior wants to get an early start on preparing for the Senior Bowl and NFL Combine.

Texas v Kansas State Photo by Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images

Of the seven players elected as team captains for the Texas Longhorns prior to the 2020 season, the only healthy players who plan to participate in the bowl game are senior quarterback Sam Ehlinger and junior Jack Joseph Ossai after senior defensive tackle Ta’Quon Graham opted out on Saturday to start early preparations for the Senior Bowl and NFL Combine.

“With the regular season officially over, I feel it’s time to say my goodbyes and start to prepare for the Senior Bowl and the NFL combine as the next steps in fulfilling my dream of playing in the NFL,” Graham said in a statement released by the school. “I want to thank the University of Texas faithful, my teammates, my coaches, the football staff, my friends and my supportive and loving family. I will always hold my hand high, while extending my index and pinky fingers to form the most recognizable college symbol in the world. Being a Longhorn is what football in the state of Texas is all about and wearing Burnt Orange is a true privilege. I will always remember my time here and will miss you all. Hook ‘em Horns!”

A holdover from Charlie Strong’s class, Graham was a coveted target of Oklahoma and TCU down the stretch during the 2017 cycle, but stuck with Texas and was the third highest-ranked recruit in the class as the No. 204 prospect nationally, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings.

In 12 appearances as a freshman, Graham made six tackles, including two tackles for loss, before starting the first and last games of the 2018 season as a defensive end in coordinator Todd Orlando’s odd front. Graham had two sacks as a sophomore and forced a fumble in the Sugar Bowl victory over Georgia. As a junior, Graham entered the starting lineup full time and finished second on the team in tackles for loss with 12, along with 3.5 sacks and 31 overall tackles.

With Chris Ash taking over as the new defensive coordinator and installing a four-down front, the 6’4, 293-pounder moved inside to the defensive tackle position and ranked third on the team in tackles for loss with seven and second with two sacks.

Against then-No. 6 Oklahoma State on Halloween, Graham posted the best performance of his Texas career, recording five tackles (three solo), 3.5 tackles for loss, one sack, and a fumble recovery.

Graham’s backup is freshman Alfred Colins, who has 17 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, and one sacks this season.