Past Experience — Considered the less "college ready" of the Merrell twins, Jamal Merrell exploded onto the scene as a third-year sophomore. Most famous for a game-winning forced fumble against Syracuse, Merrell held onto the starting job all season despite some strong competition from true freshman Kevin Snyder.
He finished his first on-field season with 44 tackles and three TFLs.
As a Recruit — Merrell committed with his brother Jamil Merrell over reported offers from Florida State, Maryland, Michigan, Tennessee and West Virginia. Graded as a three-star receiver in the Class of 2009, Merrell committed to Rutgers as a package deal with his brother.
Spring Performance — With Khaseem Greene on the mend from his leg injury, Merrell received a full spring's worth of reps at strongside linebacker with Kevin Snyder moving over to weak.
Merrell did not show the same game-changing type plays in the spring that he did as a sophomore, but put together a solid series of practices and is in place for a fierce battle with Snyder for the starting job in training camp.
Does Well — Merrell plays physical and he plays angry. He may be a converted wide receiver but he certainly does not hit like one. Merrell is a good tackler with great speed for an outside linebacker.
Too slow to play receiver, Merrell is more than fast enough at linebacker to get to the ball and chase down players in the open field.
Needs to Improve — Strength and consistency are the top areas in which Merrell can improve. Built more like a wide receiver than a linebacker, Merrell needs to get bigger and stronger to remain as an every-down linebacker in the Rutgers system.
Yes, he made some huge plays last season, but there were also drives and games where he was underwhelming and not swarming to the ball as an outside linebacker should.
Long-Term Outlook — Merrell is a candidate for a sixth year of eligibility based on a rough series of injuries to start his career. Finally coming into his own at linebacker after time at wide receiver, look for Merrell to be an impact defender as one of the four linebackers expected to rotate with the first-team.