2015 OT Jalen Merrick picks up 'Cats offer

2015 OT Jalen Merrick of New Smyrna Beach (Fla.) talks about his Northwestern offer, other interest and visit plans.

In 2013, four-star wide receiver James Clark of New Smyrna Beach (Fla.) placed Northwestern in his final list of five schools.

For a moment, some anticipated some (rare) National Signing Day excitement for NU.

Clark eventually chose Ohio State, but may have indirectly helped the Wildcats program.

While he recruited Clark, defensive line coach Marty Long encountered a prospect from the same high school: offensive tackle Jalen Merrick.

"I saw Coach Long throughout [Clark's] recruitment," Merrick told PurpleWildcats.com on Thursday night. "He actually remembered me, which surprised me because last year was my first year playing football."

Before his first year, the 6-foot-5, 325-pound lineman spoke to former high school teammate—and current Florida State defensive end—Davarez Bryant about the switch to football.

It worked for Merrick, the versatile tackle who picked up an offer from Northwestern. That lasting connection with Coach Long and an academic reputation could land NU a visit.

"They're trying to get me on an unofficial visit," Merrick said. "I'm going on a pretty good road trip after spring season."

This could be another challenge for NU football recruiting. Merrick holds other offers from Florida, Georgia and Oklahoma but mentioned significant interest in the Wildcats.

It makes sense: Even with some offensive line targets on the board, NU wants to focus on the best available player. They also extended an offer to four-star prospect Grant Newsome—with three-star guard Jared Thomas and tackle Blake Camper also interested.

For now, they can work on Merrick, knowing that a visit could help them compete in a tough recruitment.

"It's big for me," Merrick said of the offer. "It's a big-time school."

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