Maryland defensive end Shawne Merriman will forego his senior season after declaring for the NFL Draft yesterday.
Merriman finalized his long-expected decision to leave after recently being rated a late first or early second-round prospect for the April23 draft by an NFL personnel panel. Merriman informed Terrapins coach Ralph Friedgen late Tuesday.
“I thought about staying,” Merriman said. “Maryland will be pretty good next year. Coach Friedgen and the staff and fans have shown me a lot of support, and I want to be part of the program, [but] I’m ready to make the jump and play at the next level.”
This is the second straight year Maryland has lost a potential senior All-American to the pros. Randy Starks was a 2004 third-round selection by the Tennessee Titans.
Maryland staffers pressed Starks to remain, fearing correctly he wouldn’t match his expectations of getting chosen in the second round. However, Merriman’s probable first-round selection left the Terps wishing him well.
“Shawne will test well [in the NFL Combine starting Feb. 23],” Friedgen said. “And if he goes in first round, then he made a good decision. He played well for us last year. He should be very proud of his community work and his football at Maryland.”
Said Merriman: “Coach Friedgen has been on that [NFL] level and knows what kind of player I am.”
Merriman (6-foot-4, 245 pounds) should impress NFL scouts in workouts because of his exceptional speed for his size. Merriman probably will be an outside linebacker in the pros but could play defensive end. ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. called Merriman a “workout warrior” who could go in the middle of the first round.
“He has a lot of qualities you like in a combo outside linebacker,” Kiper said. “He could also be a defensive end in a 4-3 with his strength and speed.”
Merriman said he “can’t wait” for the combine, knowing a strong showing could be worth several hundred thousand dollars in a pro contract.
“I don’t know if [NFL] people know Shawne Merriman that much, so I get a chance to display my talents,” he said.
An All-ACC defensive lineman last season with 81/2 sacks, 10 quarterback hurries and 85 tackles, Merriman finished one sack behind Terps career leader Mike Corvino (24). Missing the school mark bothered Merriman because he might have broken it had the Terps (5-6) reached a fourth straight bowl game.
“I would have liked to be the best record-wise, but if anybody saw me play, there’s no question who was the best,” he said.