So far, so good.
Monday night against Florida State Merling registered eight total tackles, include five solo stops, one sack and two tackles for a loss. He also was credited with a forced fumble. For his efforts he was named ACC defensive lineman of the week.
CUTigers.com talked with Merling earlier this week about his performance Monday night and also about Saturday's opponent in Louisiana-Monroe in another edition of "On the Record."
First off you have to feel pretty good about your performance Monday night against Florida State as you were named defensive lineman of the week in the ACC. Talk a little about that.
Merling: Yes it feels good to get that. My teammates helped me out a lot. Our whole line was outstanding this week and that allowed me to go out there and make some plays. That's what it is all about.
The consensus was this defense was going to be pretty good this year, but I don't think anybody thought you guys would be as effective and dominant as you were at times Monday night. Talk about what you were able to do to shut them down.
Merling: Well to be honest that's how we felt the whole camp what we did Monday night. We feel that way about the whole year. Last year we had a good defense and we've got most everybody back. The nucleus is back so we are just ready to take it to another level and that's what we did Monday.
Merling: No not really. We are focused. We are doing more mental work because our body isn't allowing us to practice as hard. We have to stay focused. We aren't going through the motions out there so we'll be alright.
We know that Louisiana-Monroe likes to use the option on offense. How does that change your mentality in facing a team like that, especially knowing that sort of offense can negate the speed advantage you guys will have on defense?
Merling: It slows us down a little. You can't just run up the field. You have to read your keys. For me, I have to look at the tackle a lot more ... at least more than I did against Florida State. That will slow us down some.
Is there any talk in the locker room about what Appalachian State and how you guys have to ready for a team like Louisiana-Monroe after what they did to Michigan last weekend?
Merling: Definitely. That game is a great indicator that we can't take any team for granted. Since that game, we've seen how a team like Michigan can lose to anybody. We have to practice hard and pay attention to details or we can lose just like Michigan did.
FSU did have some success late in the game. What do you attribute that to?
Merling: They got a lot of good field position in the second half. Give them credit. We made a couple of mistakes and they took advantage. But the offense saved us there by holding on to the ball in the second half, late in the game. That ended up being the difference.