By Ethan Cadeaux
Fresh off its first bowl game appearance since 2014, the Maryland football team is poised to take another step in the positive direction during year two of head coach DJ Durkin’s tenure.
“It’s been a joy to coach,” Durkin said. “When you can actually focus on coaching and getting better, and know that they’re bringing a great attitude and work ethic every day.”
Camp has been full of tremendous competition thus far. Durkin described the first few days of practice this year as “noticeably different” than a year before.
“I feel like practices are more competitive [this year] because we have more talent,” sophomore running back Lorenzo Harrison said. “The young guys come in ready to go, they are all trying to get a spot. I feel like it’s better energy right now. Everybody’s competing, trying to get on the field.”
Several position groups have noticeable competitions for the starting spot, and Harrison is competition for one as well. Running back was one of the deepest positions on the team a season ago, and it got even deeper when the Terrapins added four-star recruit, and Harrison’s high school teammate, Anthony McFarland to the mix.
The competitive drive that the team has embraced during camp starts from the top with Durkin himself.
“You know coach, he’s competitive in everything he does,” junior defensive lineman Brett Kulka said. “The guys he’s brought in this year have done a really good job adapting to that and making this more competitive overall.”
The Terrapin’s brought in the 18th best recruiting class from the class of 2017, including eight four-star prospects, according to 247Sports. It’s no secret that this roster is a lot more talented than it was a year ago.
“There’s a lot of new faces out there,” Durkin said. “It’s much more competitive. There’s better depth at spots and more guys competing at positions. That makes such a difference. When you have competition that says a lot more than any coaching can do. That’s the thought, always bringing great players into the program and keep the completion up.”
For the returning players, they can now fully focus on executing a system Durkin wants to run, rather than having to learn the system on the fly like they did a year ago.
“Last year was a lot of us learning the defense and learning the way coach wanted it done,” Kulka said. “But this year, I think we all really get the feel for it. Now it’s just about going out and executing it every day.”
The Terrapins are fully focused in camp, as their Week 1 opponent is no slouch. While many schools open up their season with a low-profile opponent, as Maryland has done with the University of Richmond in 2015 and Howard University in 2016, the Terps kick off the 2017 campaign on the road against Texas. The Longhorns are a popular pick to be a top 25 team under new head coach Tom Herman.
But Durkin and his Terps are not backing away from the challenge.
“If you want to have a successful season and win championships, you have to win on the road,” he said. “Whether they come the first game or the fifth game, you got to be able to win on the road. We’ll get a great road test and great opportunity for our team right off the bat.”