For quarterback Matthew Merrick, the waiting game is finally over and he can start his Texas Longhorns career several months early.
After turning down several overtures from high-profile programs before National Signing Day, the Irving Cistercian Prep standout wasn't sure whether he would receive a scholarship to join the program this fall or grayshirt to enroll during the spring as a member of the 2016 class. At various times, he's admitted that it's been a difficult process for him having to balance to need for preparedness with the need for patience.
But with two scholarships opened up by the inability of wide receiver Gilbert Johnson and defensive tackle Du'Vonta Lamkin to qualify at Texas, the coaching staff was able to use one of those available spots on Merrick and ensure that there will be four scholarship quarterbacks on campus this fall, a luxury the Horns haven't had in some time. In fact, the last time was in July of 2013 before the transfer of Connor Brewer to Arizona.
The 6'3, 185-pounder joins Kai Locksley as the second quarterback in the 2015 recruiting class. Considered a consensus three-star prospect, Merrick was the No. 56 pro-style passer nationally and the No. 169 player in Texas, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings. At the time of his November pledge to the Horns, Merrick held offers from Colorado State and Nevada, but he also received late interest from schools like Florida and Virginia, among others.
Along with a lanky frame that needs development, Merrick's decision-making is an area where he will have to grow -- he threw 28 interceptions over his last two seasons in high school and his interception rate as a senior was 4.7%. On the positive side, he threw for 33 touchdowns in 2014, a tremendous increase over his junior season when he only had 12 touchdown passes.
Fortunately for Merrick and the Longhorns, he'll have plenty of time to do that and won't have much pressure on him early, as he's essentially being recruited for depth purposes and to ensure future competition if there are more injuries or transfers at the position.
He's a decent athlete who will have some functional mobility in college to make plays outside the pocket. As a comparison, Merrick's raw skills are in line with someone like Connor Brewer, though Merrick likely hasn't had all the high-level instruction in private tutoring and camp sessions that Brewer had in high school. The good news for Texas is that he has been working with quarterback tutor Kevin Murray for some time now. Yes, that's Kyler's father, the former A&M quarterback.
Improvement with Merrick's footwork and strength gains should eventually help him put better velocity on the football, as he has a tendency to drift on some of his passes -- he's basically all arm right now on a lot of his throws. When he does drive off of his back foot coming out of his drop, there's noticeably more zip on his passes.
Right now his best throws are touch passes down the sideline on fades or corner routes, but he does also have some ability to make plays on the run.
In addition to the competition level Merrick has faced, he's also a bit behind the curve because he focused mostly on basketball until his junior season, a fact that probably increases his ultimate upside and speaks to his need for development before he's ready to play.
But right now he's just relieved and excited to be on campus with his teammates and ready to start his career as a Longhorn.