Merritt Named Hurricanes Running Backs Coach

Merritt Named Hurricanes Running Backs Coach

CORAL GABLES, Fla. – University of Miami head football coach Mario Cristobal Wednesday announced the hiring of Matt Merritt as the Hurricanes’ running backs coach.

Merritt, who arrives in Coral Gables with more than a decade of collegiate experience coaching running backs, has been a key member of multiple coaching staffs that have either played for or won a national championship.

In his most recent stop at USF in 2023, he helped the Bulls produce 12 team and 16 individual records as the team capped the biggest turnaround in Bulls history (a six-win improvement) with a 45-0 rout of Syracuse in the Boca Raton Bowl.

“I am really excited to welcome Coach Merritt, his wife Brittanie and his two sons, Daniel and Thomas, to the Miami Hurricanes Football Family,” Cristobal said. “Coach Merritt is one of the bright young minds in college football. He made a great impression on our staff with his knowledge, his ability to teach the techniques and fundamentals of the running back position, his presence and his insight from working with multiple productive offensive systems.

“Coach Merritt has enjoyed success at every level of football, and his knowledge and versatility due to that experience brings a lot of value to our organization. He is a family man with a tremendously high care factor for developing student-athletes.”

Merritt was instrumental in helping the Bulls put together one of the most impressive seasons in program history a year ago.

“I’m extremely excited. I’m extremely humbled, as well,” Merritt said. “I’m honored to be at a place like Miami. The tradition, the history – at this position in particular – speaks for itself. I’m really excited to be able to continue to uphold that standard and to be here with this incredible staff and this incredible group of players. It’s a blessing, and I can’t wait to get to work.”

He previously worked as a member of the University of Tennessee staff in 2021 and has been a part of coaching staffs that have played for (JMU, 2019) and won (Ohio State, 2015) a national championship.

USF ran for 182.8 yards per game (2,377 total yards) to rank third in the American Athletic Conference and posted 5,871 total yards (451.6 per game), the third-best mark in program history, in 2023. USF ranked No. 17 nationally in total offense and produced 415 points, the fifth-best mark in program history. Nay’Quan Wright ran for 797 yards and eight touchdowns. Meanwhile, quarterback Byrum Brown led the Bulls with 809 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground, joining Heisman Trophy Winner Jayden Daniels (LSU) as the only players in the nation to post 3,000-plus yards passing and 800-plus rushing on the year.

Merritt helped Georgia Southern earn an invitation to the Camellia Bowl in 2022 as the Eagles ranked No. 19 in FBS football posting 468.6 yards per game and 30th with 33.67 points per game. Running back Jalen White ran for 914 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Prior to his tenure at Georgia Southern, Merritt served as a senior offensive analyst for Tennessee (2021). UT earned a berth in the Music City Bowl and posted a four-win improvement over 2020. The Volunteers finished third in the SEC in total offense and second in scoring average, while the running game averaged over 218 yards per game, a nearly 90-yard per game improvement from the season before his arrival. UT shattered eight team single-season records, including points (511), total offensive yards (6,174), touchdowns (67) and rushing first downs (164). UT increased its total offense by 128.7 yards per game, putting up 474.9, a mark that ranked ninth in the FBS.

Merritt spent one season at James Madison (2019) and was part of a Dukes program that went 14-2, won the Colonial Athletic Association and reached the 2019 FCS National Championship game, falling to North Dakota State 28-20. He placed two running backs on the All-CAA Team, with one earning All-America honors. Percy Agyei-Obese was a Third-Team HERO Sports All-American and First-Team All-CAA selection after rushing for over 1,200 yards and leading the league in rushing touchdowns. Jawon Hamilton was also a Third-Team All-CAA honoree.

JMU’s rushing attack ranked 10th nationally and first in the CAA (242.9). Primarily a three- or four-running back rotation, JMU’s backs combined for 3,224 rushing yards and 39 total touchdowns, 35 coming on the ground. Agyei-Obese turned in the seventh-best rushing performance in JMU single-season history with 1,216 yards to go with 19 rushing scores, which was third in JMU single-season history. Hamilton also neared the 1,000-yard mark, finishing the season with 919 yards on the ground.

Merritt went to JMU after two seasons at Elon (2017-18), where he coached the running backs and special teams. In his two years with the Phoenix, the program saw a drastic improvement in the run game, leading the CAA in the 2018 regular season and second overall, at just under 200 yards per game.

Led by CAA Offensive Rookie of the Year Jaylan Thomas and two-time All-CAA selection Malcolm Summers, the Phoenix backs combined to rush for more than 3,800 rushing yards and 30 touchdowns in Merritt’s two seasons guiding the group.

Elon ranked second in the CAA in rushing during the 2018 season at 199.5 yards per game. That was a 35 yards per game improvement from the 2017 season, in which the Phoenix rushed for 164.5 yards per game, which was almost 40 yards better than the year before Merritt’s hire.

Thomas was the league’s top offensive rookie threat in 2018, ranking second in the CAA at 95.1 rushing yards per game and leading the league with 6.6 yards per carry. He tallied 761 rushing yards in just eight games of action. Summers had been leading the league in rushing yards per game before an injury in the fifth game of the season, accruing nearly 600 rushing yards and three touchdowns in just five games. That included a 185-yard performance in Elon’s first win ever against JMU.

In 2017, Summers rushed for over 750 yards and four scores in only six games, leading the CAA and country in rushing yards before a season-ending injury midway through the campaign. Summers, along with De’Sean McNair and Brelynd Cyphers, combined for almost 1,900 yards and 14 scores to help the Phoenix reach the FCS playoffs after finishing second in the CAA.

Merritt spent one season as the running backs coach and special teams coordinator at Division II school Ohio Dominican (2016). ODU rushed for 1,398 yards and 16 scores, as four backs ran for at least 260 yards.

Merritt was an assistant running backs coach and offensive graduate assistant at Ohio State (2013-15). During Merritt’s time at OSU, the Buckeyes won the 2015 national championship, the 2016 Fiesta Bowl, and a Big Ten championship. They also made an appearance in the 2014 Orange Bowl.

While at OSU, he helped coach wide receivers, running backs, special teams, and the defensive scout team. He played a role in the development of Ezekiel Elliott and Curtis Samuel while with the Buckeyes, in addition to coaching Carlos Hyde and Braxton Miller.

Merritt spent two years as the running backs coach and special teams coordinator at St. Charles Preparatory (2011-12).He also spent a year and a half as a graduate assistant coach at Capital University (2010), where he played running back and wide receiver.

Merritt recorded 542 rushing yards as a collegian, aiding in Capital’s 2007 playoff berth. He tallied 1,099 career rushing yards and 12 touchdowns and helped Capital make a pair of Division III playoff appearances.

During his coaching career, Merritt has participated in the Bill Walsh Minority Fellowships, first with the Cincinnati Bengals with the running backs in 2016 and also with the San Francisco 49ers with the quarterbacks in 2019.

Merritt earned his bachelor’s degree in education from Capital in 2010 and later  master’s degrees in sport management from Ohio State and coaching education from Ohio University, both in 2016.

He is married to the former Brittanie Duty. The couple has two sons, Daniel and Thomas.