DJ Durkin Q&A: 'There are a lot of people who want to see this work'
He was born Daniel John Durkin but goes by DJ. But whatever name you call him, the precocious Maryland coach is running one of the fast-rising programs in the Big Ten.
Durkin is looking to take the proverbial next step with the Terrapins this season, his second in College Park. Maryland went 6-7 in his debut in 2016, as inconsistent quarterback play was an issue. The work in the trenches on both sides of the ball also left something to be desired. But Durkin is adding talent as fast as he can, looking to inject more playmaking ability into the roster ASAP. And, if you believe recruiting services, Durkin has been doing a terrific job since arriving at Maryland from his gig as defensive coordinator at Michigan.
I caught up with the 39-year-old Durkin as he finished up his second spring practice at Maryland.
Q: What are some positives from spring drills?
A: I think we are much further ahead coming out of spring than we were a year ago. Not only with the system and speed, but knowing how to practice, operate and the tempo of play we want. The little details of training, practice … We are able to get a lot more done. There also is good competition going on at various positions. We had seven mid-year guys in here. Those guys all have been a positive in upgrading competition. We will bring in 21 more guys this summer. The best way to improve is with competition. The best way to do that is to recruit.
Q: How is the quarterback slot looking?
A: We will make a decision on a starter sometime in camp. We will let those guys compete for a while. I am pleased with where we are at. We are much further ahead than where we were last year in terms of being able to execute the offense, getting the ball vertical down the field. We have good competition with the guys here and Kasim Hill is coming in. We want him to able to compete for the job, too.
Q: You said after last season that Maryland needed better play on both lines. How are the trenches looking?
A: Offensively, Damian Prince has had the best couple of months of his career. He is playing at a high level and has embraced the challenge of being a leader and great player for us. Brendan Moore and Terrance Davis also are playing well. Those are guys who played a lot last year but would tell you they were up and down. They all are taking the next step and evolving. They are becoming more consistent. I am pleased with where they are at. On defense, guys like Cavon Walker, Kingsley Opara, Jesse Aniebonam and Chandler Burkett all have played a lot for us and all had a great spring. I like where we are at on both lines. And our coaching is good, too. I think we’ve done a good job to get the guys fundamentally sound. You have to be great up front to have a chance.
Q: Who will be the playmakers on offense?
A: We have several. At running back, we have good depth. Ty Johnson already has proven to be a big-play guy. Lorenzo Harrison has proven to be a big-play guy. Jake Funk has been phenomenal. And we bring in three guys who were all nationally recruited who we feel great about. We have a lot of potential at running back. At receiver, D.J. Moore is one of the top players in the conference. Taivon Jacobs is back and healthy. He has big-play ability. Jacquille Veii sat out last year after transferring. He has the speed to take it the distance. And we are bringing in five freshmen who all are capable and athletic. We have some really good options on offense.
Q: How is the indoor facility progressing?
A: It is right on schedule. It will be done around the end of June. We are excited about that. The remainder of the building will need another year or so before we have meeting rooms, weight room and the other stuff ready.
Q: How have you been able to make such a splash in recruiting in such a short period of time?
A: We have made a real emphasis on our area, the DMV (Washington, D.C., Maryland, Virginia) and a three-hour radius from our campus, south New Jersey, Delaware, Eastern Pa. and on down to Virginia Beach. We have made a real point in building relationships and really entrenching ourselves in the area in countless ways with coaches, trainers and families, making a point of what we want this program to be about. We have a great product to sell. You look at the power of a Maryland degree, the facility we are building, playing in the Big Ten East, our Under Armour relationship, there are a lot of great things going on here. There are a lot of people who want to see this work.
Q: How do your uniform combinations help with recruiting?
A: The uniforms help get us exposure, especially nationally. We will continue to do that. This year, we will be unveiling one new uniform. In the years to come, we probably will make some bigger changes. We definitely will keep that cutting edge. That is one of the great parts of our relationship with Under Armour.