Camp experience impresses Merrick

The Florida Gators are in the middle of the Will Muschamp Football Camp and with that comes a steady stream of top recruiting targets. Some will work out, some won't. Getting them on campus is what matters most, but for those that have questions about the Gators, coaching them up can be very beneficial. That seems to be the case with New Smyrna Beach (Fla.) offensive guard Jalen Merrick.

The Saturday camp session at Florida went from around 9 am until 3 pm and the attendees were coached every minute of the day outside of a short lunch break.

The offensive linemen at the camp got hands on teaching from Florida offensive line coach Mike Summers as well as three senior linemen on the team. Chaz Green, Max Garcia, and Trenton Brown had a huge presence with the group.

The experience really impacted Jalen Merrick and his thoughts on Florida. Summers was at the forefront there.

"It was a great visit," Merrick said shortly after the camp Saturday. "I definitely got better this camp session and it was great working with Coach Summers as well.

"He's a really calm coach, he wants you to get better and he really pushes you to your limits. If you mess up, he won't bash you, he will help you get better and help you fix your mistakes. Most are really loud and in your ears, he just tries to help you get better."

Max Garcia really worked with Merrick a lot with his stance and such and Merrick just tried to soak it all in.

"It was great," he said of the work Garcia put in. "He noticed I hadn't played that long and he was trying to help me and Bello out. It was great to get to know some of the players that are on the field already. He was great."

Garcia and Merrick

At 6-foot-5 and 317 pounds Merrick is a big need for Florida who lacks depth of any kind along the offensive line. Florida has a commitment from center Tyler Jordan. The Jacksonville lineman spent a great deal of his time on Saturday trying to reel in Merrick to the good guys along with star offensive tackle Abdul Bello from Montverde Academy.

"He was trying to recruit everyone," Merrick said smiling about Jordan. "He was talking to me, Kendrick Norton and Bello all at the same time about why he committed and everything. He said I should be a Gator and this is the place to be. I think this is a great place to be."

He and Bello have a bit in common. Merrick has played a total of ten high school football games in his career. He was offered a scholarship before he ever played a game and now has 32 offers. Bello has played a total of six games and has over 20 offers now. The two hit it off pretty good.

"We really did talk a lot, going back and forth about where he plans to visit this summer," Merrick said of Bello.

It has been a fast ride as Merrick spent most of his childhood as a basketball player and only in the spring of 2013 did he decide he wanted to give football a try. When coaches came by this spring, they saw a lot of what they needed to see with him.

"I have 32 offers now," he said. "This spring I picked up about 20 offers. It was crazy because one week I picked up eight offers. My coach told me it was going to be a lot crazier when the season starts."

He credits his work on the hard wood for the things he is able to do that most his size are not capable of. And the college coaches have noticed.

Bello and Merrick

"They say it's my footwork and ability to move and get to the second level, which probably came from basketball… a lot of the drop steps and kick steps," he said.

A little nervous with reporters lined up to talk to him, Merrick was able to joke about his basketball ability when he was asked if he "owned the paint" in that sport.

"I fouled out pretty much every game," he said with a little grin as the media laughed.

Florida made some moves with Merrick on Saturday, but they still have work to do.

"I plan on making a decision sometime soon after I go on a couple of more visits," he said. "I have Ohio State, Georgia, South Carolina, and Alabama."

"I wouldn't say they (the gators) are the leader, but in the top category (with some others)," he said. "It impressed me a lot today. I really like the coaching staff and the way the program is going. I like the facilities and I like the players here now. I feel like I already have a relationship."

He says he would like to make a decision before his senior season starts and a positive for Florida is that he wants to come back by the school again before that decision.

"I would like to see a lot more," Merrick said. "I am definitely going to come back, later in the process when I start to narrow things down."

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