After nearly two months of speculation, the wait is over. D.J. Durkin has been hired to be the next head football coach, Director of Athletics Kevin Anderson announced Wednesday.
“We began this search looking for a candidate with qualities that aligned with our vision for the football program, and throughout the process it became clear D.J. was the perfect fit. He has had success at some of the nation’s most preeminent football programs, is recognized as one of the top recruiters in the country and is widely respected as one the top young coaches across the college football landscape,” Anderson said in a statement Wednesday.
In 2015, he worked under Jim Harbaugh as the defensive coordinator at the University of Michigan, leading one of the most dominant defenses in the country. The Wolverines posted three consecutive shutouts for the first time in 1980 and allowed the fourth fewest yards per game in all of college football. Maryland fans got a firsthand look at Durkin’s defense this season, as Maryland only gained 105 total yards of offense in a 28-0 loss to the Wolverines at Byrd Stadium on Oct.3.
In that loss the Terps gained just 1.7 yards per play, and quarterbacks Caleb Rowe and Daxx Garman were under constant duress in the pocket. The Wolverines defensive backs also handled Maryland’s young receiving corps with ease, giving Rowe and Garman few open targets that resulted in just 10 completions in 36 attempts.
The Terps weren’t the only offense that was manhandled by Durkin’s unit this season. Michigan’s two other shutouts came against No. 22 Brigham Young and No. 13 Northwestern, teams far superior to the Terrapins, who only managed 105 and 168 yards of total offense respectively.
Before being the defensive coordinator at Michigan, Durkin served in the same position under Will Muschamp at Florida with similar results. In his two seasons as coordinator the Gators ranked 8th and 15th in total defense, and were the number two defense in the SEC in 2013, behind Alabama.
Durkin is also an excellent recruiter, one of the most important qualities in a football coach. This is especially important for Maryland, who brings in their most touted recruiting class in recent memory. According to Brandon Parker of the Washington Post, four star wide receiver D.J. Turner and three star running back Lorenzo Harrison are committed to Durkin, a positive sign for a team going through a coaching change.
However, Durkin may have work to do to convince prized recruit Dwayne Haskins to keep his verbal to College Park. Haskins took a visit to Florida this past weekend, after months of unwavering commitment to the Terps on social media.
Durkin will be introduced tomorrow in a press conference at 11 a.m., but will have his hands full as soon as it ends. After a promising Big 10 debut, Maryland regressed to 3-9 and had just one conference win over fellow bottom feeder Rutgers. Even with Haskins and wide receiver Tino Ellis arriving in the fall, Maryland will still have a young receiving corps and inexperience at running back with the departures of Brandon Ross and Wes Brown.
The defense showed flashes of potential last year, especially the front seven, but Maryland graduates three starters from an abysmal secondary. It will take time for Durkin to bring in his players, and it may take two or three years before the Terps’ are ready to compete with some of the better teams in the Big Ten.