The Miami football program is hiring Matt Merritt from South Florida as their running backs coach, initially reported by Matt Zenitz of 247Sports. Merritt spent one season in Tampa. Before his stint with USF, Merritt spent one season at Georgia State and was on the James Madison, Ohio State and Tennessee staffs at the Division I level.
Merritt started his coaching career at his alma mater, Division III Capital University in Ohio, in 2010. Merritt ran for 1,099 career yards and 12 touchdowns at Capital from 2006 through 2009. After one season on the Capital Staff, Merritt was a high school coach for two years. Ohio State hired Merritt as a Graduate Assistant for RBs from 2013-2015.
Merritt left Ohio State to become the Running Backs Coach and Special Teams Coordinator for Division II Ohio Dominican in 2016. FCS Elon hired Merritt for the same position in 2017 and 2018. Merritt moved on to James Madison as RBs coach in 2019. Tennessee hired Merritt as a Senior Offensive Analyst in 2020.
Hopefully Merritt can place some roots in Coral Gables. Miami has its third RBs coach in as many seasons under Mario Cristobal. Merritt will be with his fifth program in as many seasons. Merritt was the 21st-ranked recruiter in the American Athletic Conference and 392nd nationally in the 2024 cycle.
Ohio State finished in the top 11 rushing offenses nationally in the three seasons Merritt was a graduate assistant with the Buckeyes. Carlos Hyde led Ohio State with 1,521 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns and quarterback Braxton Miller had 1,068 and 12 scores on the ground in 2013.
Ezekiel Elliott ran for over 1,800 yards in consecutive seasons succeeding Hyde. J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones combined for over 1,200 rushing at QB in 2014 as Ohio State won the National Championship. Barrett, Miller and Jones combined for over 1,100 yards rushing in 2015.
Three players ran for at least 476 yards in Merritt's first season at Elon in 2017. Elon ran for over 200 more yards as a team in 2018 during Merritt's second season. In Merritt's two seasons at James Madison, the Dukes advanced to the FCS title game and lost in the Semifinals the following year.
Percy Agyei-Obese had his best season under Merritt with 1,216 rushing yards and 19 TDs in 2019 before injuries hindered the remainder of his James Madison career. In his one season on the Tennessee staff, the Volunteers were 12th nationally, averaging 217.31 rushing yards per game.
Under Merritt in 2022, Georgia Southern struggled running, averaging 136.77 yards per game. Running back Jalen White did have 914 rushing yards and 10 TDs for the Eagles in 2022. South Florida finished 33rd under Merritt in 2023, averaging 182.85 rushing yards per game.
Merritt is considered a rising star in coaching. The ascension that Merritt has had throughout his career has built on each stop. With a history of working with QBs who have had success as a runner, Merritt should be a good fit with Miami offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson, QB Cam Ward and the Hurricanes' RBs in the future.