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2015 NFL DRAFT
player photo

Phillip Merling, DE

Height: 6-4 | Weight: 276 | College: Clemson
 
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Overview

A well-traveled prep standout, Phillip Merling returned home several years ago, enrolling at Clemson, where he spent the last three years being coached by his uncle, Chris Rumpf.

Rumpf was the Tigers' defensive line coach. Merling had great success playing for his uncle earlier in his football career, as both were together at Calhoun County High School, before Merling entered the collegiate ranks.

Merling developed into one of the elite rush ends in the college ranks. That made it surprising when he opted to bypass his senior year to play in the National Football League in 2008, as the staff tried valiantly to convince him that another year of college would only enhance his draft stock.

Merling began his prep career playing football for three seasons under head coach Chris Rumpf at Calhoun County High School in Saint Matthews, South Carolina. He earned Defensive MVP honors as a junior. He also excelled in basketball, receiving All-Conference, All-Region, and All-Area in hoops as a sophomore and junior. He averaged 20 points and 12 rebounds on the hardwood as a senior and averaged 15 points and 13 rebounds as a junior.

For his senior prep campaign, Merling transferred to Cordova High School in Memphis, Tennessee. The tight end/defensive end had 20 catches for 430 yards and four scores that season, adding 34 tackles and four sacks. He played in the Tennessee/Kentucky All-Star game, earning first-team All-State and All-Region accolades. He was also an All-Dixie team pick by Super Prep and an All-Atlantic Region choice by Prep Star.

To improve his academic standing, Merling enrolled at Fork Union Military Academy in 2004. He earned team MVP honors after catching 38 passes for 647 yards and five touch-downs, adding five sacks, 51 tackles, and eight pass break-ups. He was rated the 18th-best tight end in the nation according to Super Prep and No. 20 tight end by Scout.com. He was ranked as the No. 25 prep player in the nation by Rivals.com.

Merling enrolled at Clemson in 2005, spurning scholarship offers from Arkansas, South Carolina, Kentucky and Memphis. He played behind All-American defensive end Gaines Adams, appearing in 271 plays over 12 games. He made 22 tackles (17 solo) with two sacks, four stops for losses and four quarterback pressures, earning Rivals.com Freshman All-American second-team honors.

Merling moved into the starting lineup at left defensive end in 2006. He generated 20 QB pressures to go along with 46 tackles (31 solo) while taking 515 snaps for a team that ranked 13th in the nation in total defense (280.77 yards per game). He got to the quarterback on three sacks and tallied 10 stops for losses while causing a fumble and deflecting four passes.

Merling earned All-Atlantic Coast Conference honorable mention in 2007, as he ranked tied for fifth in the league with 17 stops behind the line of scrimmage. He produced 78 tackles (51 solo) with 21 pressures and seven sacks while starting all 13 games. He caused two fumbles and recovered another, helping the Tigers rank ninth in the nation in total defense (306.77 yards per game) and 10th in scoring defense (18.69 points per game).

Analysis

Positives: Well-built with thick legs and long arms, tight waist and hips, and minimal body fat … High-energy player who is best on the move, showing better ability to make plays along the edge than working inside … Flashes good explosion off the ball and has decent anchor and leverage ability to hold ground vs. isolated blockers at the point of attack … Quick off the edge and shows good hustle to the ball, utilizing his upfield burst to give him an advantage over the large, slower blockers … Extends his arms well to keep blockers off him and has the swim move lateral agility to excel coming from the backside … Shows good breakdown and body control in his tackling form, using his long arms to capture ballcarriers in space … Reads hats well and reacts to the play effectively, showing the ball awareness instincts on the move to neutralize and redirect the outside running lanes … Shows good balance in his moves down the line, demonstrating the knee bend to keep his feet on the move … Easily defeats blocks with his speed, showing the ability to dip and turn the corner in a flash … Disengages quickly from his man to move toward the ball and plays until the whistle, showing an explosive closing burst … Has that extra surge to consistently finish off his blocks, taking good angles to pressure the pocket … Still needs to improve his overall strength, but he has enough raw power to deliver pop when making contact with the quarterback and when he keeps his pads down and uses his hands, he can control the fullback and clog the rushing lanes … Has a sudden short burst to penetrate and shows the sustained speed to be effective in long pursuit … Natural pass rusher who comes off the ball with a quick twitch, body lean and leverage, but is best when operating in plays away from him, so he can redirect and give backside chase … Has the arm strength to drag down the ballcarriers and the foot speed to close on the quarterbacks and collapse the pocket … Comes off the line at the proper pad level and can burst around the corner with speed, looping through the gaps with good urgency … Has improved his hand usage during his junior year, as he played off blocks much better to work his way down the line … Gives chase with good body control … While he has the leverage to hold up, with his speed, he is much more effective on the move, where he can combine his lateral quickness and motor to keep containment on the outside … Not an explosive tackle, but will hit, wrap and secure … Has the functional leg drive to bull rush at times, but his best trait is his ability to get upfield in a hurry.

Negatives: Needs to improve his hand play -- he sometimes struggles to disengage once blockers lock on -- and keep blockers off his feet … Best on the move when he sets his base, but he will turn his shoulders and get sealed off at the point of attack … Seems to recognize the ball quicker when he's on the move rather than working through a crowd inside … His lower-body frame lacks the power to take on bulky blockers with consistency, and he shows a decent anchor vs. tight ends and backs, but he can still be driven off the ball when offensive linemen go directly at him … Despite his quickness and urgency coming off the edge, he still needs to develop rush moves (club and rip are lacking, but his swim move is very effective), as he relies too much on quickness to separate … Gets caught up by double-team activity inside and must protect himself better because he doesn't have the raw power needed to split double teams … Plays with a good motor, but will get frustrated and shut down when the bigger blockers consistently neutralize him.

Compares To: JUSTIN TUCK-New York Giants … Both defensive ends will make a nice living coming off the edge. They have impressive size, though Merling is best playing on the move to utilize a sudden initial step to slip past blocks. He is not a good stack-and-control type and must do a better job of protecting himself from low blocks, but he is quick to provide outside run contain and shows a quick swim-and-spin move that generally gets him into the backfield to pressure the pocket. He won't read and react in an instant, but has closing speed to seal the deal, even in long pursuit, once he locates the ball. He has to improve his lower-body strength, but there is enough athletic ability there to get by as his body continues to mature.

Career Notes

Merling appeared in 38 games at Clemson, starting his final 26 contests. He delivered 146 tackles (99 solos) with 12 sacks for minus-80 yards, 31 stops for losses totaling 152 yards and 45 quarterback pressures … Added four forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and seven pass deflections while participating in 1,374 snaps … .Earned ACC Player of the Week honors three times in 2007, the most selections for a Tiger defensive lineman since James Robinson won it four times in 1983.

2007 Season

All-Atlantic Coast Conference second-team selection by The NFL Draft Report and Rivals.com, adding honorable mention from the league's coaches … Became the first Tiger defensive lineman since 1983 to earn ACC Player of the Week honors three times in the same season … Started all 13 games at left defensive end, earning the team's Rock Solid Award, given to the most consistent and dependable player at each position … Ranked fifth on the team with a career-high 78 tackles (51 solo), as he totaled seven sacks for minus 50 yards, 17 stops for losses of 80 yards and 21 quarterback pressures … Caused two fumbles and recovered another, as he deflected one pass while participating in 588 plays … Registered 11 third-down stops, including eight vs. the run and added three more of fourth-down activity … Stopped opposing ball carriers for no gains on five rushing attempts and in 51 running plays he was involved in, he held his opponent to minus 8 yards on the ground … Also added one tackle on special teams.

2007 Game Analysis

Florida State … Merling opened the season with nine tackles (five solos), a 3-yard sack, two stops for losses and a pressure … He caused a fumble by popping the ball out of receiver Preston Parker's hands on a seven-yard reverse at the FSU 24 late in the first quarter and later took down Parker on another reverse for a 2-yard loss in the fourth frame … He also sacked QB Drew Weatherford for minus-3 yards at the Clemson 34 with 3:50 left in the game … Head to Head Competition-OT#79-David Overmyer (6:05-277).

Louisiana-Monroe … The left end had another nine hits (7 solos) with a pressure and two stops behind the line of scrimmage, as he deflected a third-&-11 Kinsmon Lancaster pass to force a ULM punt late in the first quarter and pressured the QB into tossing a third-&-6 incomplete pass at the start of the second half … He tackled tailback Calvin Dawson for a 4-yard loss on ULM's second series of the third quarter and chased down Lancaster for a 5-yard loss on a late third quarter option … Head to Head Competition-OT#76-Larry Sharpley (6:05-290).

Furman … Posted just three tackles with two pressures, but he forced a second quarter interception when his third-&-6 pressure on QB Renaldo Gray's pass was picked off by Clemson in the end zone for a touchback … Head to Head Competition-OT#76-Scott Shuford (6:03-285).

North Carolina State … Registered three pressures with five tackles, including one that stopped tailback Darrell Blackman for a 2-yard loss on a screen at the State 43 with 3:47 left in the first half … Head to Head Competition-OT#60-Meares Green (6:04-306).

Georgia Tech … Earned ABC/Chevrolet Player of the Game honors, as Merling made a season-high ten tackles, including nine on running plays (held the opposition to no yards), with three stops for losses of 7 yards, as he also recovered a fumble by QB Taylor Bennett on the game's first play from scrimmage to set up a Clemson 48-yard field goal … Twice tackled tailback Tashard Choice for losses of 2 yards each on second and third quarter running plays … Head to Head Competition-OT#53-A.J. Smith (6:07-300).

Virginia Tech … Merling added five tackles (3 solos) with a pressure and sacked QB Tyrod Taylor for a 5-yard loss on a third-&-7 snap, resulting in a safety with 3:36 left in the first half … Head to Head Competition-OT#67-Nick Marshman (6:05-357).

Central Michigan … Registered another five tackles (4 solos) with two stops behind the line of scrimmage, including one that took down Justin Hoskins for minus 3 yards during the game's first series … Head to Head Competition-OT#77-Greg Wojt (6:04-288).

Maryland … Merling produced four tackles (3 solos), with one stopping Dan Oquendo for no gain on a punt return at the UM 8 in the fourth quarter … Head to Head Competition-OT#75-Dane Randolph (6:05-312).

Duke … The left end had a quiet day, with just one assisted tackle on 40 plays … Head to Head Competition-OT#70-Fred Roland (6:08-310).

Wake Forest … Merling was credited with eight tackles (7 solos), two sacks, three stops for losses and four pressures … He sacked Riley Skinner for a 6-yard loss on third-&-4, forcing a mid second quarter punt … Skinner was sacked again for minus 4 yards with 3:41 left in the first half … He also pressured Skinner into throwing a fourth-&-10 incomplete pass that killed a 12-play, 66-yard series at the Clemson 16 in the fourth quarter … Head to Head Competition-OT#76-Joe Birdsong (6:04-292).

Boston College … The Tiger rush end was in on nine tackles (6 solos), adding two sacks for losses of 22 yards and three pressures … He sacked QB Matt Ryan for a 12-yard loss early in the second quarter and killed a third quarter 15-play, 48-yard series by sacking Ryan for a 10-yard loss on third-&-6 at the Clemson 31, followed by a fourth-&-16 pressure that turned into an incomplete pass … Head to Head Competition-OT#74-Anthony Castonzo (6:07-262).

South Carolina … Merling collected five tackles (3 solos) and forced a fumble that Clemson recovered at the Tigers 33 with 2:25 left in the second quarter, stripping the ball from Dion Lecorn after a 9-yard catch … Head to Head Competition-OT#78-Justin Sorensen (6:07-329).

Auburn (Chick-Fil-A Bowl) … Merling closed out his career with three tackles (2 solos), including a 10-yard sack of QB Brandon Cox on third-&-9, forcing an Auburn punt at the start of the second quarter … Head to Head Competition-OT#73-Lee Ziemba (6:08-297).

2006 Season

Started all 13 games at left defensive end, participating in 515 snaps … Recorded 46 tackles (31 solo) with three sacks for minus-19 yards, 10 stops for losses of 56 yards and 20 pressures for a unit that ranked 13th nationally in total defense (280.77 yards per game) and 18th in rush defense (103.08 ypg) … Caused one fumble and deflected four passes … Made 30 of his 46 tackles during his last six games.

2006 Game Analysis

Opened the season with a six-yard sack vs. Florida Atlantic and made two stops for minus-22 yards to go along with four tackles vs. Boston College … Tallied three pressures vs. North Carolina and had a four-yard sack that caused a fumble in the Louisiana Tech game … Credited with four tackles, as he sacked QB Reggie Ball for a 5-yard loss vs. Georgia Tech … Was in on five tackles with 1 1/2 stops for losses, as he assisted in sacking QB Sean Glennon for minus-8 yards vs. Virginia Tech … Posted five tackles with three pressures vs. North Carolina State and delivered five solo hits vs. South Carolina, followed by another five tackles (four solos) and a five-yard sack of QB Andre' Woodson in the Music City Bowl.

2005 Season

Second-team Freshman All-American by Rivals.com … Recipient of the team's 12th Man Award for the defense as a rookie … Participated in 271 snaps, fifth among Clemson fresh-men, as he played behind All-American Gaines Adams … Recorded 22 tackles (17 solos), two sacks for minus-11 yards, four stops for losses of 16 yards and four pressures … Also caused a fumble.

2005 Game Analysis

Began his collegiate career with a stop for a four-yard loss vs. Texas A&M and had two pressures with six tackles (five solos) vs. Boston College … Added a three-yard sack and three tackles vs. North Carolina State … Had four tackles with a stop for a loss vs. Temple and an eight-yard sack with a pair of solo tackles vs. Duke.

PREP SCHOOL

Attended Fork Union Military Academy in 2004, playing defensive end and tight end for head coach J.C. Harmon … Earned team MVP honors after catching 38 passes for 647 yards and five touchdowns, adding five sacks, 51 tackles, and eight pass break-ups … Rated the No. 18 tight end in the nation according to Super Prep and 20th among tight ends by Scout.com … Was ranked as the No. 25 prep school player in the nation by Rivals.com.

Injury Report

No injuries reported. He left the 2006 Temple game (10/12) after four plays, but no injury was listed on the final report, though the play-by-play sheet indicates he left due to an undisclosed injury.

Agility Tests

Campus: 4.68 in the 40-yard dash … 315-pound bench press … 445-pound squat … 33 1/4-inch arm length … 9 3/8-inch hands.

High School

Attended Cordova (Memphis, Tenn.) High School as a senior … The tight end/defensive end had 20 catches for 430 yards and four scores that season, adding 34 tackles and four sacks … Played in the Tennessee/Kentucky All-Star game, earning first-team All-State and All-Region accolades … All-Dixie team pick by Super Prep and an All-Atlantic Region choice by Prep Star … Began his prep career playing football for three seasons under head coach Chris Rumpf at Calhoun County High School in Saint Matthews, South Carolina … Earned Defensive MVP honors as a junior on the gridiron and also excelled in basketball at that school, receiving All-Conference, All-Region, and All-Area in hoops as a sophomore and junior … Averaged 20 points and 12 rebounds on the hardwood as a senior and averaged 15 points and 13 rebounds as a junior.

Personal

Sociology major … Played high school football under head coach Chris Rumpf, his uncle, who served as Merling's defensive line coach the last three years at Clemson … Born Phillip Blaine Merling on 8/19/85 … Resides in Saint Matthews, South Carolina.

 
 

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