Big Ten Q&A: Maryland football coach DJ Durkin
The DJ Durkin era has begun at Maryland. And with it comes hope the Terrapins can move up the pecking order in the rugged Big Ten East.
Durkin has quickly impacted, taking recruiting to another level while installing new schemes on both sides of the ball this spring. But Durkin and Co., also have some key personnel issues to deal with. Maryland ranked 11th in scoring defense (34.4 points per game) and 11th in total defense (421.2 yard per game) in 2015. The offense also has problems. No school in the nation turned the ball over more than Maryland’s 36. And the quarterback play was abysmal, as the Terps tossed a national-high 29 interceptions for a program that had a conference worst minus-18 turnover margin.
The aerial attack was No. 13 in the Big Ten (174.3 ypg). The line also has lots of room for improvement even though the Terps had the No. 3 rushing game in the Big Ten in 2015 (200.7 ypg).
I caught up with Durkin at the end of spring drills.
Q: How did your squad look this spring?
A: Big picture-wise, we made some strides in installing a new offense and a new defense. We have a much better understanding and grasp of it. We have a better idea of our personnel. The main thing we were trying to get out of spring was to learn the tempo and urgency with which we are going to play. And to become competitive. We did a lot of competitive drills, winner/loser type of stuff. We made some great strides in those areas.
Q: What was it about the Maryland job that appealed to you?
A: It’s a pretty good list of things. Someone told me to take the right job, and not to hurry and just take a job. Taking the right job is important. There is a great recruiting base here. I think it’s one of the best in the country. The conference, the division we are in, we are able to recruit to the highest level because we play at the highest level. When you look at the facilities and Cole project that’s going on that will be done in the next 18 months, it’s pretty remarkable. The education and what this university stands for and how powerful that degree is, the internship possibilities and life after football opportunities for our guys in this part of the country are terrific. Then you start to meet the people who are involved, from A.D. Kevin Anderson on down, I felt like it was a place where everyone was pushing in the right direction and wanting to win at the highest level. They were willing to put in the effort, means and resources to win.
Q: What does it mean to have Kevin Plank and UnderArmour involved with the program?
A: That makes us unique. Kevin has an unbelievable amount of passion for this area and university and football program. It’s extremely beneficial for us. Having that relationship with UnderArmour really makes us unique and can provide us with a lot of things as we move forward and get this thing going in the right direction. I think we will compete at the highest level. To have him as a partner is extremely important.
Q: You are a native of Youngstown, Ohio, which has produced a lot of coaches. What is it about Youngstown, which has produced the Stoops brothers and Bo Pelini, among others?
A: It is amazing when you look at it. I don’t know the exact reason for that. We have had quite a few guys go on and do well in the coaching profession. Being from that place, you learn that your work matters and you learn that blue collar mentality of hard work and toughness. That to me is what that city epitomizes. That is what the people from there stand for. When you grow up there, you learn that at a young age. Be a man of your word and go earn what you get because nothing will be handed to you.
Q: You were a G.A. under Urban Meyer at Bowling Green and an assistant to Jim Harbaugh at Michigan. What did you learn from those two?
A: I have been fortunate to work for both of them, as well as others I have worked for. You learn things from everyone. I learn stuff from our staff here every day. It is on-going. I like to get into conversations about coaching, teaching and life, along with being mentors to the young men. The two guys you mentioned are very good at what they do. Their success speaks for itself. They are very similar in how competitive they are. They also are very different in how they handle things day to day. But there is more than one way to do things.
Q: Do you stay in touch with Meyer and Harbaugh?
A: I do. I keep in touch with both of them. Absolutely. They have been very important to me and my family.
Q: Have you had a chance to have a Ledo’s pizza yet?
A: I hadn’t a month ago. But I have since. One night we picked one up. And it was good. I have had my first Ledo’s pizza.
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