- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 9, 2014

Shawne Merriman wasn’t shocked when Maryland trailed Ohio State 14-0 less than nine minutes into their game last Saturday.

“Stats don’t lie,” the former Terrapin linebacker said. “The weakest part of that team is the defense. It’s given up yards and scores, so I wasn’t completely surprised of how [Ohio State] jumped out and … probably even the outcome.”

Maryland entered its first-ever meeting with the Buckeyes after its defense surrendered 435 yards and 19.8 points per game through the first five games of the season. Ohio State proceeded to rack up 533 yards from scrimmage en route to a 52-24 victory. Now, the 4-2 Terrapins rank 67th and 99th in the country  in points and yards allowed per game, respectively.

Merriman studies film of defenses as an analyst for the Big Ten Network. He’s especially knowledgeable of Maryland’s defensive unit because its coordinator is Brian Stewart, who coached the San Diego Chargers’ secondary for two years after they drafted Merriman.

“I talk to all the [Maryland] coaches all the time just about what I watch on film,” Merriman said. “It’s the same schemes we ran in San Diego, so I have a lot of knowledge on the system.”

And the Terrapins’ defensive weakness, Merriman thinks, is the line.

“I think that [Maryland] is struggling in the talent area of the interior,” he said. “The battles are being won and lost up front, and they’re losing most of those battles. That’s why these teams are able to run the ball effectively. [The Terrapins] have some stars up front on the defensive side of the ball … but as a core group, they’re still missing some links.”

Ohio State opened the game with six straight runs. Despite the Buckeyes’ predictable play-calling, they still marched 66 yards. The catalyst: their line.

For Maryland to get to the Buckeyes’ level, Merriman believes that the recruitment of linemen — on both sides of the ball — must be a priority.

“A team like Ohio State, for example, has hogs up front on the offensive and defensive line,” he said. “Maryland is not there just yet across the board to win those interior battles. … Hopefully after this year, they’ll be able to address some of those areas.”

Merriman is confident that coach Randy Edsall and the Terrapins will address those areas. And when they address them, he declared that they will “no question” get to the level of Ohio State and the cream of the Big Ten crop.

“Anybody who goes and takes a visit to the University of Maryland and they not only see the campus, but they see the program, is going to want to come here,” Merriman said. “Especially now having the attention being in the Big Ten.”

Merriman may be a tad biased.

He not only attended Maryland, but he grew up in Prince George’s County 15 minutes from College Park. Merriman remains invested in the area. On Nov. 15 when the Terrapins play Michigan State, he and his Lights On Foundation will host their 12th annual, which donates approximately 5,000 coats a year.

As much constructive criticism as Merriman has for his former team, he’s anticipating success not only in years to come, but in 2014.

“I’m still excited for the rest of the season,” he said. “I don’t think that they won’t be able to compete. I think they already have shocked a lot of people so far in being able to compete in the Big Ten.”

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