When Jalen Merrick and his New Smyrna Beach teammates travel to West Palm Beach on Friday night to face off against Palm Beach Central in the spring game, he’ll have plenty to prove.
He already knew he’d be going up against one of the best linemen in the state with offensive tackle Kc McDermott, a 2014 Miami commit, staring across at him. Now he also ventures into FAU territory, where he’ll have more incentive to prove the Owls were not wrong in offering the 6-foot-5, 270-pound sophomore.
FAU offered Merrick last week, his first Football Bowl Subdivision offer and there are likely to be many more to come for the big man. Merrick is an impressive sort who passes the eye test right away. His football skills are surprisingly good considering he did not even play his sophomore season.
“I gave it a go at football the first year and I just wanted to get a year in with basketball this year,” Merrick said. “Next year I’m going to do both, along with weightlifting.”
He was quite surprised when FAU pulled the trigger
“It’s a blessing … they just came up when we were lifting weights at school and Coach [Lance] Jenkins told me a coach wanted to talk to me. He said basically he wanted to be the first to offer. He said he knows I will get plenty more down the road.”
Merrick could not remember the coach’s name and he said he’s been talking to plenty of recruiters.
“I’ve been talking to coaches this whole week and they’re just excited about my size and my upside and they just say that they’ll keep in contact and see me next year,” Merrick said. “But this one, he just offered me and so I was pretty excited. It will motivate me to keep working harder.
“I didn’t think I was going to get an offer until at least after the spring game because we’re supposed to be playing against a five-star recruit Kc McDermott. That should be a good one.”
Merrick will be playing both sides of the ball for New Smyrna, but he figures his college future will be at offensive tackle. He also knows that as much as he could boost his stock with a good performance against McDermott, the No. 9 ranked player in the Sentinel's Florida Top 100, he could also see a reverse fate if things don’t work out so well.
That, however, does not concern him.
“It should be a good atmosphere. There should be a lot of scouts there for that Miami commit,” Merrick said. “I’m ready for him. It’s probably going to be the same as going against our defensive tackle Matt Thomas. Kc McDermott is supposed to be physical, but I’m up for the challenge.”
Chris Hays is the Sentinel's recruiting coverage coordinator and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Twitter at @Os_Recruiting and Facebook at Orlando Sentinel Recruiting and now on Pinterest at Orlando Recruiting.