By Ethan Cadeaux (@Ethan_301)
The ongoing search for the next Maryland Terrapins head football coach came to an end on Wednesday, when athletic director Kevin Anderson appointed former University of Michigan defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin as the 36th head football coach in Maryland history.
Durkin, only 37 years old, has been around some of the great college coaches in his relatively short coaching career. He worked under Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh twice, and was an assistant to current Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer while he was at University of Florida. Durkin has gotten nothing but positives reviews all around.
“D.J. is one of the bright young minds in the coaching profession,” said Jeremy Foley, the University of Florida Director of Athletics who is very familiar with Durkin from his time there. “He is a great teacher, recruiter and has a deep passion for the game and helping young men develop both on and off the field.
“He did a wonderful job while here at the University of Florida. Everyone loved working with D.J. He is a winner,” Foley continued on.
While Durkin already has an impressive résumé, and has been around a winning culture throughout his career, he is faced with his toughest task yet in turning around a Maryland team coming off a 3-9 season with inconsistent play in all three phases of the game.
Durkin’s youth and the energy he brings were two very attractive traits for the Terps when deciding the next head coach.
“Energy is production,” Durkin stressed throughout his press conference. “This building will be filled with high energy people that are excited about coming to work and go do it from the top on down. When everyone is pushing in the right direction, that is hard to stop.”
Besides high energy, Durkin believes the best way to turn this program around is by having very competitive players who want to be the best day in and day out.
“You try to find guys that are competitive,” Durkin reiterated. “[Competitiveness] is the characteristic that carries over anything. Guys that are competitors, they find a way to get to the top. Whatever environment [competitors] are in, they are going to fight and scrap and somehow get to the top of that environment. Those are the types of guys were are looking for.”
Although Durkin won’t coach another game until next September, he has no time to waste before getting started. The recruiting contact period, where coaches can directly talk to recruits, is in full swing. Now that the head coaching position has been solidified, the Terps must fight hard to keep a very solid 2016 recruiting class in tact.
Dwayne Haskins, the number 2 rated quarterback in the country, has been committed to the Terps since May, but took an official visit to University of Florida last weekend. Durkin must do everything he can to keep Haskins committed to the Terps, or else the whole movement of having players in the D.C.—Maryland—Northern Virginia area play for the hometown Terps may fall apart.
“There is a sense of pride from people in this area, that say ‘you know what, we want to play for the hometown team,’” Durkin said in terms of keeping top local talent at home. “Right in our backyard is one of the richest talent areas in the country.”
Durkin, a fantastic recruiter in his own right, should attract several top defensive prospects to the University of Maryland. In 2012, Durkin was named the Rivals.com Recruiter of the Year while at University of Florida.
“Recruiting is all about relationships, and I plan on starting from day one just being consistent and continuing to build relationships,” said Durkin. He stressed that he will be straightforward and honest from the start with recruits.
Besides recruiting, Durkin has a lot of decisions to make in the near future in terms of his staff. One of the biggest questions is whether he will bring Mike Locksley back, who was the offensive coordinator before taking over as the interim head coach for the Terps midway through the season.
“I’m in the process of getting together with our entire staff, Mike as well as everyone else, and go through where we are at,” said Durkin. “I want the staff to keep doing what they are doing, they have obviously done a heck of a job in putting together a heck of a recruiting class and building relationships, and I don’t want that to just be put off and stopped.”
Locksley is well liked amongst the players, and was the catalyst in persuading a lot of the top local 2016 recruits such as Haskins to stay home and commit to Maryland. If he is retained on staff, Locksley, a strong recruiter in the area, could definitely keep the terrific Terps recruiting class in tact.
Durkin, who did not stop smiling throughout his time on stage, is definitely excited to take over as the head of Maryland football, and is ready to tackle the challenge of turning this team into a contender.
“We are going to be aggressive in everything we do,” said Durkin. “Offensively, defensively, special teams, in the classroom, in offseason workouts, we will be aggressive in everything we do. I truly believe in being a blue-collar and hard working team, and I think [we] can out effort people. That’s what I know, that’s where I’m from, from the ground up.”