Starkville Perfect Fit For Outdoorsman

Freshman offensive lineman Dakota Merritt, who considers himself an outdoorsman, feels he fits in perfectly at Mississippi State and Starkville.

"I'm more of an outdoor person," said Dakota Merritt. "I love it here because I love to fish and hunt. It has definitely lived up to all the expectations that I had.

"And I've gotten to know some great people up here and have developed some great friends."

Several of those friends play alongside him on the offensive line while one is a fellow Floridian.

"Me, D.J. Looney, Addison Lawrence hang out together," said Merritt. "(Freshman tight end) Nelson Hurst has started to hang out with us a lot. And we are always with Wesley Carroll. We hang out at his place."

As for his expectations of Starkville and Mississippi State, he got those when he first set foot on campus.

"I was actually going to visit Clemson after we visited Starkville, but I decided to go ahead and commit to Mississippi State," said Merritt, who had offers from North Carolina State and several smaller schools in Florida. "I loved the atmosphere up here. It's a small town that revolves around the football program and the college. And I fell in love with the coaches."

Merritt was recruited out of high school by the MSU coaches to play offensive line, a place he had never played until he set foot on MSU's campus.

"I played defensive end my entire high school career until my senior season when they moved me to defensive tackle. I never played offensive line," said Merritt. "It was a huge adjustment for me.

"In high school, as a defensive lineman, I never stunted, we were told to just go after the ball. Going from that to having to learn specific steps, reading defenses and reacting to them ... it's been pretty difficult for me."

The mental aspect of it has been the most difficult part.

"I can play the physical part now, it's just the mental part," said Merritt, who is 6-6 and weighs 297 pounds. "I kind of freak out sometimes when the defense shifts. It's not natural for me yet, I just have to get more reps.

"It's just something that comes with experience. You don't really have time to think when you are out there, you just have to understand it well enough to be able to react to what you see."

And when he's to the point where it's natural to him, he has a teammate who he aspires to be like on the field of play.

"I kind of compare myself mentally and attitude-wise to (sophomore starting center) J. C. Brignone," said Merritt. "I really look up to him. He's a nasty player and I love that part of it to. But I look up to him because he is very tough and gritty. He can mean and tough on the field, but off the field he's down to earth."

Just like Dakota Merritt, the outdoorsman.

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the website, the source for Mississippi State sports on the sports network. You can contact him by email at

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