Merrill takes in OSU scrimmage

JAKE MERRILL traveled down to the Beaver State last weekend, visiting with coaches and getting a sense of OSU Football as the spring sessions came to a close. Oregon State, after getting a chance to view his tape, is among those showing increased interest in the 6-2 1/2 200-pounder out of Gig Harbor, Washington.

There's a lot to like about Merrill. For starters, he's fearless and likes to tackle with his face. That comes through loud and clear when viewing his tape -- and schools have responded.

Merrill was already drawing significant early recruiting interest but since schools have gotten a chance to look at his film, it's ramped up considerably. Perhaps surprising is that he does not have an offer to date given the amount of contact he's received -- phone conversations and face to face visits -- but coaches from Oregon State to Michigan are making their interest well known to him and his prep coach.

Gig Harbor coach Darren McKay expects more of the same, now that schools are wrapping up spring ball. Over the last month, Merrill has met or talked with a number of schools, including OSU coaches Mike Riley and Bruce Read.

"I met coach Riley, talked to him for a couple minutes," said Merrill. "I also met coach Read, who's the recruiter in my area and he said they're very interested in me. They want to get to know me a bit more."

The feeling is mutual. Riley only was able to spend a few minutes with Merrill because he had spring ball to attend to, with Merrill saying he hopes to have some more time to talk with him in the future.

Distance will not be much of a factor in Merrill's decision, with the coaching staff and education being far more important.

"I want a position coach that's going to be down to earth and is close to his players," he said. "I'm also looking at the educational program, because I'd like to go into sports medicine."

Another consideration will be how much the surrounding community is into the football program -- Does the town shut down on Saturdays? Is football the thing?

Merrill also had a number of great things to say about the coaches at Washington State, Oregon, Washington, Michigan and Florida to name a few.

ALL SCHOOLS are even at this point and Merrill remains wide open. He didn't get a lot of publicity last year and could be one of those guys that after he gets on the field at a school's camp, offers could be forthcoming in a hurry as coaches get that valuable first hand look.

And there's also a school or two out there that might not want to wait until camp before offering a full ride. Because one thing is certain, this is a defender who likes to go out there and 'smack someone in the mouth'.

In 2004 for Gig Harbor High, Merrill had 69 tackles with 15 pass breakups and 2 INTs.

His busy schedule calls for the full camps at Washington State and Washington, the Coaches Association camp at Seahawk Stadium and then to Oregon for their half-day camp. He also plans on the full camp at Michigan, having received an invite from the Wolverines.

Schools have mostly talked to him about being a safety but a couple, like the Cougs and the Huskies, are recruiting him as an athlete, with the idea he could play either safety or linebacker. He does not have a preference.

"Oregon has clearly stated they want me at safety (as has Michigan) because they like big safeties," he said. "I'm open to anything. I mean, I just want to play ball. I love football. I love to hit. So as long as I'm on the defensive side of the ball, I don't care," he finished with a laugh.

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