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B1G 2018: Is Year 3 The Make Or Break Year For D.J. Durkin?

Coming off of a 4-8 season a year ago, could Year 3 be the make or break year for Maryland head coach D.J. Durkin?

Northwestern v Maryland Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Maryland football is entering Year 3 of D.J. Durkin’s tenure and so far its shown mixed results. Year 1 resulted in a bowl game trip and hope was high that a very young team could build on the experience into and repeat a bowl game the next year, hopefully a better one. Spirits were high last year as Maryland knocked off Texas to open the season but it all came crashing down after that. Sophomore QB Tyrrell Pigrome was out for the season after a stunning three quarters with a torn ACL, starting DE Jesse Aniebonam was out with a broken foot, and Kasim Hill shortly followed early on in the third game against UCF with a torn everything it seemed in his knee. Max Bortenschlager may be a suitable backup for a game but he was neither of his predecessors and Maryland finished the season a dismal 4-8 after a promising 3-1 start.

Add last years disappointing results in to the absolutely abysmal atmosphere around the program with Durkin’s predecessor Randy Edsall and things don’t feel too great around the Maryland program going into this year. Edsall left the cupboard absolutely bare at Maryland and Durkin spent a huge amount of time and energy recruiting both quantity and quality to College Park but many are starting to wonder if the efforts are going to start showing itself on the field. Before Durkin even began, almost every single fan and “insider” would tell you that Maryland was in for a large rebuild after the Edsall experiment but most fans quickly forget and want to see results. Here we are, three years in, and those fans are starting to pop up.

Is it even reasonable to expect six or more wins this season?

Certainly, playing in the Big Ten East with the likes of Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan State, and Michigan it is going to be tough going in conference. Maryland would be lucky to get out of those four games at 1-3 but how does the rest of the schedule set up?

Luckily, the out of conference other than Texas is kind, so 2-1 seems very reasonable. Maryland also opens up home conference play with home games against Minnesota and Rutgers with a trip to Michigan in between. Maryland also has Indiana and Illinois on the slate this year, so four conference wins seems entirely realistic. Go 2-1 out of conference or sweep the Texas series for a 3-0 out of conference schedule? Even seven wins is not outside the realm of possible from a pure scheduling standpoint.

Is the talent on the roster to get it done?

On the offensive side of the ball Maryland is returning a ton of talent. The offensive line should be the best it has been in recent memory with two future NFL linemen anchoring the line along with upperclassmen in the middle, either one of Tyrrell Pigrome or Kasim Hill showed in limited time last year they could compete against high level Power 5 competition, and the running back stable is in the upper tier of the Big Ten in terms of talent. Ty Johnson can take it to the house on any given play, Lorenzo Harrison can pick up huge chunks with his shiftiness, and Anthony McFarland is slated to be an X factor bouncing between slot receiver and running back in Matt Canada’s jet sweep heavy offense. Wide Receiver is a big question mark but the raw ability is there. Maryland has went after height at the position since D.J. Durkin arrived and if anything they should be able to win those 50/50 jump balls.

On the other side of the ball, the defensive line is a big question mark but is also completely revamped from last season. Jesse Aniebonam is returning from his injury while former top overall player Byron Cowart has transferred to Maryland to take the other DE slot. Promising redshirt freshmen are pushing all upper class men on the interior of the line and should bolster the rotation. The secondary should be a strength as well with a ton of returning starting experience, so long as they aren’t left out to dry for 10 seconds at a time trying to hang in coverage with no pass rush like last year.

In short? The ability is there on the roster to achieve those wins above. Texas is a 50/50 game but Maryland should find themselves to be favorites against Bowling Green, Temple, Minnesota, Rutgers, Indiana, and Illinois. Also, the talent is there to end the embarrassing blow-out losses against the likes of Ohio State, Penn State, and Michigan.

So, does this mean it is a make or break season for D.J. Durkin?

In my opinion, this is not a make or break season but anything less than six wins and D.J. Durkin is staring squarely at the hot seat next year. With a favorable schedule setup and experience across the roster, Maryland is setup to grab at least six wins in the regular season if not more. Injury bugs may excuse a bit of the poor showing last season but excuses don’t go too far.

Additionally, Maryland has made a new hire at the Athletic Director position in Damon Evans and Durkin is going to want to succeed fast. New ADs are known for wanting to make their mark on where they are and if Durkin isn’t treading water in the Big Ten East then Evans may start looking harder at the football program.

Lastly Durkin will be in year 3 of a 5-year, $12.5 million contract. Following this season, there will be calls to extend Durkin, so he doesn’t appear as a lame-duck to potential recruits. Given that Randy Edsall was literally extended due to getting a verbal commitment from Dwayne Haskins (prior to the 2015 season), Maryland may be a little more cautious this time with Durkin. So a successful 2018 could indeed have long-term implications for DJ Durkin in College Park.


Is Durkin on the hot seat if Maryland doesn’t hit six wins?

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