D.J. Durkin has his first commitment as a college head coach. On Dec. 19, Archbishop Carroll (Washington, D.C.) four-star guard Richard Merritt ended his recruitment a little earlier than expected and pledged to the hometown Maryland Terrapins.
“I’m very, very happy for Rich and he made a great choice in Maryland,” said Carroll coach Rob Harris. “I think he went through the process, I think he enjoyed the process, and he felt now was the time to pull the trigger. When Coach Aazaar [Abdul-Rahim] came back to coach at Maryland, that really had a lot to do with it. Coach Aazaar had a very personal relationship with us and Rich even before he got into college coaching.”
Indeed, the tip of the cap goes to UMD’s new defensive backs coach on this one. A D.C. native who spent years building the Friendship Collegiate Academy program before taking a job at Alabama two seasons ago, Abdul-Rahim’s ties to the area run deep. He’s known Merritt, and numerous other recruits, since they were in middle school. Merritt, for his part, played at FCA for two years under Abdul-Rahim before transferring to Carroll when the latter left.
“Rich had a father-son like relationship with Coach Aazaar, and I think that’s the main reason Rich took a renewed interest in Maryland,” Harris said. “Coach Aazaar is a very personable guy, and he relates well to all the kids around here. When he came through the school to see myself and the other players, Rich just lit up. Maryland became the favorite with [Abdul-Rahim] on board.”
Harris said Merritt has not met D.J. Durkin yet, but plans to when the dead period ends Jan. 13. The Carroll guard did not embark on a Maryland official visit Dec. 11 like several other local recruits, so instead he’ll trek over to campus one weekend during the New Year.
“I’m a little shocked Rich committed [Dec. 18], to be honest, but I’m happy,” Harris said. “I thought he was going to officially visit Maryland and some other schools, but he didn’t feel like he needed to. He felt like he found his fit, and he committed. He’s been up [to Maryland] before a bunch of times, and I know he’s comfortable on campus and wanted his mother to be able to see him play. It’s not a surprise he did commit to Maryland, I just didn’t expect it to be [Dec. 18].”
Merritt also considered offers from Va Tech, Auburn and Florida, although it’s questionable which of those scholarships were committable. Maryland actually didn’t have a committable offer out to the Carroll product either until Abdul-Rahim was hired and convinced Durkin to give the DMV guard a longer look.
“Rich is a very gritty and tough inside player,” Harris said. “He likes to push people around. Maryland got a great guy who is going to work and really help out their line.
“But Rich is just getting started. There’s a lot of growing to do from an experience standpoint. He has to keep working on his pass protection, his conditioning and just grow in the game. But once he develops, he has the potential to be a force at the next level.”
Although Merritt played right tackle for Carroll, Harris projects him as a guard. He said his frame (6-feet-5, 345-pounds) and athletic abilities remind of an interior lineman.
“I think guard will be the best spot for him,” said Harris, who mentioned Merritt made second-team all-WCAC. “I try not to compare kids, but I’ll just say Rich is a mauler-type and has that guard’s mentality. He gets his hands on you, and when he does, he’s something to deal with, for sure. He has that mean streak in him too, which all linemen need.”
Off the field, Harris said Merritt’s a “great teammate” who readily connects with others.
“He’s a great communicator and a very great friend,” Harris said. “His teammates all love him.”
As far as Maryland is concerned, Harris said it’s too early to tell what Durkin and his staff will be able to do. But he’s encouraged by the moves the new headman has made thus far.
“They’re putting together a great staff there with Coach [Mike] London, Coach Aazaar and Coach [Scott] Shafer. I think Rich is going to be in good hands,” Harris said. “He’s going to a program that I think is going to more than hold its own in years to come.”