Tennessee QB commit does not fear Nico

Marvin Westwestwords

Interesting development in the wonderful world of high school football recruiting: Jake Merklinger, quarterback at Calvary Day School in Savannah, Ga., is not afraid of the more famous Nico Iamaleava.

Jake committed to Tennessee on Thursday and says he is looking forward to the competition, beginning next season.

Merklinger, 6-3 and 195, is considered the No. 6 prep prospect in the country. Almost never can college coaches stack top talent. How did this happen?

“Just the relationship I have with the coaches and the family atmosphere feeling I have there.”

Merklinger was the personal choice of Josh Heupel and offensive coordinator/quarterback coach Joey Halzle to fill the next-in-line role. What did they see?

Jake became the Calgary starter as a freshman – based on being a fierce competitor and a dual-threat athlete who can make all the throws. He is said to have a high football IQ and moxie to compete on the biggest stage in college football.

In three seasons Jake has started more games (38) than any other high school quarterback. He has completed more than 67 percent of his passes. He has thrown for 6,607 yards and 75 touchdowns and added 690 yards rushing and 20 more scores.

Last season, he lost but two interceptions.

Why Tennessee for Merklinger? He could have gone almost anywhere. The answer is what you’ve heard before, family atmosphere. He could tell coaches and players actually like each other.

“Honestly, being around Coach Heupel so much, his genuineness, his personality and then he’s a phenomenal football coach,” said Merklinger. “His development of quarterbacks through the years of coaching is impressive and he’s also won at a high level himself.”

Merklinger did his homework. He knew Heupel’s specialty is offense. He was quarterback of Oklahoma’s 2000 national championship team. He was runner-up to Chris Weinke for the Heisman Trophy.

“First, they’re good people. Second, they’ve done it themselves. I think that’s very important, coaching the quarterback position, being one before you’re a coach. Also, I think a huge thing for me was their success. Coach Heup coached Coach Halzle and immediately got him on staff. Their relationship is really, really tight.”

Merklinger concluded the Tennessee coaches know what they are talking about.

“For me it’s always been a dream to play in the SEC. I’m from the South. I feel every kid in the South wants to play in the SEC. You’re playing at the highest level of college football and you’re playing in front of 100,000 fans every Saturday.”

Andrew Ivins, 247Sports’ director of scouting, said the Vols getting Merklinger “makes a ton of sense.”

“It’s never easy to land a top-end quarterback after taking one of the nation’s best the year before and the Vols did just that. Jake is one of the better signal-callers out there.”

Iamaleava? He is widely believed to be the next Tennessee quarterback. Ivins said “Merklinger is capable of challenging for the job.”

Steve Wiltfong, 247Sports’ director of recruiting, said Jake has no fear.

“Nico – obviously – should be viewed as the quarterback of the future, but there’s no reason why Jake, who has way more live snaps under his belt, can’t push him at some point down the line.

“Just thinking about the big picture and the future of the quarterback room, you got to love the fact he’s excited to come in behind Nico and push that room. Depth chart was a non-factor. He was looking for a place he thought would best develop him as a quarterback, playing in the SEC, and Tennessee is where he fell in love.

“Merklinger is a hell of a competitor.”

Marvin West welcomes comments or questions from readers. His address is marvinwest75@gmail.com.

0 Comments on “Tennessee QB commit does not fear Nico”

  1. Pingback: The Tennessee QB commit isn't afraid of Nico • Archer News

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *