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3-star OT Max Merril commits to Texas

The Longhorns have been looking for a tackle and landed the most pure tackle prospect yet in the 2021 class.

Courtesy of 247Sports

It did not take long for Max Merril to make his decision.

Just four days after receiving an offer from the Texas Longhorns, the Strake Jesuit offensive tackle announced via Twitter his commitment to the Longhorns on Friday. Merril also considered the Indiana Hoosiers and the Louisville Cardinals.

The 6’4, 273-pound lineman held offers from 38 other schools, but once the Texas offer came in, he made the decision quickly. The composite three-star tackle fills a need for offensive line help in the 2021 class, with just two others currently committed to Texas.

He joins fellow tackle Hayden Conner, who is also a potential interior lineman, and center Michael Myslinski in the trenches as Herb Hand tries to fill out his class.

Merril becomes commitment No, 18 for Texas in the 2021 round, with several high-priority targets left on the board. The group is now No. 15 nationally in the 247Sports Composite team rankings. Merril ranks as the No. 1,261 prospect nationally and the No. 108 offensive tackle, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings.

Commitment analysis — Wescott Eberts

Any discussion necessarily requires a discussion of how offensive tackle recruiting has gone in the 2021 class. No. 5 nationally prospect, Tommy Brockermeyer, the Texas legacy, committed to Alabama. Then offensive line coach Herb Hand targeted Ryan Lengyel, who committed to Baylor. After Lengyel, Hand offered Jack Leyrer, who committed to Stanford.

But before perceiving Texas as settling for Merril, it’s worth looking through his offer list and watching his film for any insights that may aid in projecting him with the Longhorns.

Despite the volume of offers, there aren’t any that really stand out beyond all the Ivy League options — it’s mostly a group of mid-tier or lower-tier Power Five programs.

From the recent history perspective at Texas, Sam Cosmi is the easy comparison for any underrated offensive lineman that the Horns take, but the reality is Cosmi is an outlier. Even Derek Kerstetter, who was relatively underrated, was an Army All-American and committed to Oklahoma State.

So this is all about Hand’s evaluation and projection — the closet similarity since he arrived might be redshirt sophomore right tackle Christian Jones, but even that doesn’t feel right. Jones is a bigger, thicker, more explosive athlete who hadn’t played much football.

What Merril does exhibit is good balance and flexibility that make up for a lack of strength and mass. At times, it’s evident that Merril can sit in his cylinder, absorb contact, then throw out of his hips to displace defenders. There’s not much on his film in pass protection — not unusual for high school prospects — but he can get some movement when he has an angle on a defender and will keep his feet moving on contact.

One big question for Merril is whether he’s actually 6’4. Hand doesn’t prefer 330-pound interior players, so it’s possible that Merril can play inside if he’s not his listed height or doesn’t have a long reach, but his value decreases significantly if he doesn’t have the height or reach to stay at tackle.

The result is that Merril looks like a developmental project and that type of take in the fourth full recruiting cycle for head coach Tom Herman puts more pressure on higher-rated players in the 2020 class and, hopefully, higher-rated players in the 2022 class.