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4-star QB Jake Merklinger commits to Tennessee

The No. 1 QB in the state of Georgia chooses the Volunteers.

Syndication: Savannah Morning News KYUNNIE SHUMAN / USA TODAY NETWORK

Another highly ranked signal caller has decided Knoxville is the place to be. On Thursday, 2024 4-star quarterback Jake Merklinger committed to the Tennessee Volunteers over programs like Georgia, North Carolina, and Michigan State.

This commitment is a big one. Merklinger is ranked 55th overall in the 247Sports Composite Rankings, and he comes in at No. 6 among quarterbacks nationally. Merklinger is a highly sought after prospect, and Tennessee did the best job getting him on campus over the past few months. His most recent visit last week seems to have sealed the deal.

The numbers speak for themselves. Merklinger plays for Calvary Day School in Savannah, Georgia, and has dominated the 3-AAA division for three years already. Last season, he totaled 36 touchdowns (32 passing) and over 2,000 yards, with just two interceptions.

Merklinger has one of those arms that can make every throw on the field, even if he might not have the most zip on it. Most impressive to me when watching his tape is the accuracy. Merklinger drops dimes all over the place, often times putting it in the exact spot where it is out of reach for the defender. These don’t look like passes that might get intercepted at the college level. These are legitimately good strikes that will work at any level.

Merklinger also has an interesting duality to his game. He will stand in the pocket and take a hit in order to make a pass, but he’s not a statue. There are a lot of examples of his mobility and evading pressure. He’s even got some designed runs that go for big yardage.

Usually with a quarterback who is hesitant to take off, it tends to be related to their athleticism. I don’t think that’s the case with Merklinger. He’s simply trusts both his arm and his legs in whatever situation he gets in. When he does start to move, he also looks comfortable throwing on the run. A couple of plays in his highlight tape definitely won’t work in college, but the speed and quickness that he displays will come in handy.

Comparisons are always a funny business. So much of quarterback play is development, and some guys take very different developmental routes than what is expected. One name that I will throw out there: Jordan Travis at Florida State. The mobility and willingness to stay in the pocket to deliver a strike gives off those vibes. Travis has more of a Houdini quality as a quarterback, but it’s moreso the combination of the skills.

We’ll go ahead and answer this question while we’re here: Why would Merklinger commit to Tennessee when Nico Iamaleava is already enrolled? Why would Tennessee go after such a highly ranked kid if there’s a risk he leaves if/when he doesn’t get playing time?

That’s because Tennessee’s quarterback room is already fairly thin heading into the 2023 season. After this upcoming year, Tennessee will lose Joe Milton as well. That leaves Iamaleava as the lone scholarship quarterback in the room. Not only do the Volunteers need depth, they need talent. In all likelihood, Merklinger is not the last quarterback they take in the cycle.

At the end of the day, you want iron sharpening iron. Merklinger is a very talented quarterback, and if his presence pushes Iamaleava—or he just outright wins the job—you’re doing your own team a favor.

In the modern era of the transfer portal, you cannot bank on quarterbacks staying in place. You are going to have to recruit a passer in every single cycle. That’s just how it is. While you’re at it, you might as well grab the best talent you can.