Continuing on with B1G 2016 Maryland week, today I’m taking a look at what the hiring of D.J. Durkin to replace Randy Edsall could mean for the Maryland Terrapins. After a longer than expected coaching search late last fall, Maryland hired Michigan defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin to become its next head coach to replace the lackluster tenure of Randy Edsall.
Where did he come from?
D.J. Durkin has made his rounds around the college circuit, coaching under the likes of Urban Meyer at Bowling Green, Jim Harbaugh twice at Stanford and then Michigan as well as a stop in between those at Florida to coach briefly again under Meyer and then Will Muschamp. He began his career at Bowling Green and briefly Notre Dame as a graduate assistant before moving up to the Special Teams coordinator as well as DL/LB coach at Bowling Green and then moving on to take the same position at Stanford. He continued in that role for a year under Meyer at Florida before promoting to defensive coordinator for three years, coaching one of the nations better defenses while the Florida offense kept blocking each other, shadowing the great performance on the other side of the field. As we all know, he went back to Harbaugh’s staff when he rejoined the college ranks as his defensive coordinator before taking the promotion to head coach at Maryland at the conclusion of last season.
What can Maryland expect?
First things first, Durkin is an energy guy. What I mean by that is he is non-stop and surrounds himself with assistants that bring that same vibe. He hired Walt Bell as his offensive coordinator, the former Arkansas State offensive coordinator who brings an Oregon-esque style of play to Maryland with its pace that averaged 40 points per game. Early reports from players indicate that Durkin keeps music blaring at all times [I’m sure other than when he’s having meetings] to keep players moving and reports from spring practices were that players were not allowed to not be moving their feet. Don’t know what your assignment is yet in the new defense? Don’t care yet, keep your feet moving. This will certainly be a change to the offense and defense that Maryland has employed in the past but after a 3-9 season that was anything but inspiring and change is needed.
So Durking likes energy and up-tempo attitude. What else should we expect? Let’s look at the coordinators.
This is D.J. Durkin’s first year as a head coach and perhaps in realizing the need for experience on the staff, D.J. Durkin hired former Syracuse head coach Scott Shafer as the defensive coordinator and former Virginia head coach Mike London as the defensive line coach. How Maryland was able to pull former head coaches as coordinators and positional group coaches is a bit beyond me right now but they did it. I don’t think either was exactly hot on the head coach market but both were very good coordinators in their own right prior to head coaching gigs. Scott Schafer has since moved on for undisclosed reasons and been replaced by Andy Buh (pronounced boo) who comes from Kentucky as the outside linebackers coach. Buh served as the co-defensive coordinator under Harbaugh at Stanford from 2007-2009 and as the defensive coordinator at Nevada in 2010-2011 whose unit ranked 31st in the nation with scoring defense in the Top 25. Needless to say, Buh as the experience as a coordinator and is a great late minute addition to the staff after Shafer left. His defenses at Nevada were the only ones to stop Boise State in a year where they were en route to a 13-1 season. Everyone should expect Andy Buh to install a defense similar to what Michigan ran last year. He has stated his intent is to install an aggressive, attack style of defense utilizing a 4-3 base and most likely a lot of nickel looks. That may be a problem in the first year or two as Maryland needs to restock on the defensive line but they are off to a hot start in that area so as long as they can keep that up it won’t be a problem for long.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Terps are going to play fast and utilize a lot of shotgun. From the limited sample size of Bell’s offense at Arkansas State, Bell loves to move fast, use a ton of creative WR screens as well as a ton of pulling guards. Testudo Times did a good breakdownof how Bell operates on offense and I’ll let that do the talking. To go with the focus on WR blocking that Bell’s offense will utilize, Bell has been down south recruiting big receivers to do this with. The smallest of the three WR class so far? 6-2, 180. Bell is certainly going for size when he recruits WR’s and that will help not only with the downfield blocking he requires but also with legitimate redzone threats that Maryland currently lacks.
Prediction for this year
Maryland has a super soft out of conference schedule this year and is highlighted by two straight weeks in Florida. I say highlighted because Maryland has had a focus on Florida and Georgia this recruiting cycle and you can bet that Durkin will take advantage of his time down there for this. Recruiting isn’t the end all but goes a long way if you are hoping to establish a contender. There are always outliers, most recently Brady Hoke at Michigan comes to mind, but for now Maryland’s hope this year relies upon the fantastic recruiting that Durkin has done so far. I’m sure you are rolling your eyes as I discuss it but I’d rather focus on what’s coming in for 2017 (so far..) as opposed to the probable pain of this year’s team with the current lack of talent at key positions.
Anyways, back to the predictions. Maryland most likely goes 5-7 this year, starting 4-0 before promptly going 1-6 for the remainder of the year. Howard, UCF, USF and Purdue are a nice start to the season but then running into the Big Ten East schedule is not going to be fun. I’m only confident in Maryland winning against Rutgers with at least a decent chance of beating either Penn State or Indiana. Strange things happen and Maryland could go bowling or they could go 4-8. It’s the first year of a new coaching era and a first time head coach so who knows what we’ll get.