WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Four-star Carroll (Washington, D.C.) guard Richard Merritt has become a primary Maryland target and someone with high Terps’ interest following the addition of assistant Aazaar Abdul-Rahim, the lineman’s former high school coach. TT watched Merritt in action earlier this season, and also viewed raw game footage in order to better gauge the 6-foot-5, 330-pounder. Here is our take on his game:
A burly, wide-bodied guard with long arms, Merritt is a commanding physical presence who could eventually develop into a starting FBS lineman. Merritt lines up at right tackle for Carroll, which is fitting, because he flashes that characteristic road-grader nasty streak often associated with right tackles. That said, Merritt’s girth and physical abilities suggest he’ll be a guard at the next level.
At the snap, Merritt reacts promptly, showing a fast first step and rapidly thrusting his arms up to engage. He possesses large and violent hands, which allow him to maintain blocks throughout a given play. Merritt typically directs said hands inside his man’s pads, aiding his power and ability to push defenders backwards.
Moreover, Merritt plays with a relatively low pad level, which is surprising for a player his size. He comes off the ball hard and keeps his hips down, gaining leverage at the point of attack. On top of that, Merritt’s first step and consistent leg drive make it difficult for opposing linemen to shed him. It only helps that Merritt chops his feet after contact, allowing him to retain his balance and power through the whistle. Combine the above with his size and strength, and Merritt can readily finish off blocks (at least, at the high school level).
As a pass protector, Merritt quickly enters his stance and displays proper form. His back stays straight and he gets his lengthy arms extended, keeping defenders out of his body. He has a potent initial punch, sometimes stalemating edge rushers at the point of attack.
Once again, his big, active hands come in handy. Merritt anchors well and can turn defensive ends away from the pocket.
Also, Merritt seems to understand defensive tendencies, recognizing free blitzers and shifts up front. He works well with his fellow linemates on combo blocks and backside seals too.
To improve, Merritt mainly has to shore up his conditioning. As the game wears on, his form and fundamentals tends to wane, compromising his effectiveness and ability to gain leverage. He tends to lunge at his man, relying on his upper body instead of his lower-body strength. Plus Merritt’s setup and steps become more deliberate, quick-twitch defenders taking advantage during the latter part of games.
If Merritt can shore up the latter area, his overall athleticism would pick up as well. Right now, he has difficulties pulling, running down the line and blocking in space. He does his best work moving downhill -- not laterally.
Of course, Merritt could stand to reach, and execute at, the second level more readily as well. He’s not the type of lineman who will pick up multiple pancakes on a given play, knocking down the defensive end before taking out a linebacker.
When pass blocking, Merritt must work on shifting his weight to deal with fast-fibered linemen. Even at the high school level, quicker ends and blitzing linebackers can out-maneuver him to the inside, Merritt unable to readjust. It would also help if he became defter and nimbler as Merritt’s footwork isn’t always on-point.
Speaking of footwork, the Carroll product must improve his kick-step. Right now, it’s a bit mechanical and calculated instead of smooth and second nature.
Furthermore, Merritt has to prove he can execute more complicated blocks. Most of the time, like many high school linemen, he was asked to drive forward and win his one-on-one battles. That’s all well and good, but in college he’ll have to prove he can move well enough to carry out higher-level techniques.
Last but not least, Merritt has to keep building up his body, adding strength and shedding weight. His wide base and size are certainly assets, but it would behoove him to add leaner muscle. Merritt also needs to make sure he consistently gives effort as sometimes his concentration lapses.