DJ Durkin preaches ‘blue collar’ work ehtic as he connects with recruits

Feature photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics.

When Michigan shut out the Terrapins on Oct. 3 at Byrd Stadium it marked one of the lowest points in a disappointing 2015 campaign. The Wolverines held the Terps’ offense to a measly 105 yards, including just 8 yards in the second quarter, and forced three interceptions on the day.

The shutout was a prelude to the Terrapins’ eight-week coaching search. Now DJ Durkin, the man who orchestrated Michigan’s 28-0 shellacking of the Terps, will call Maryland his home as the program’s new head coach.

As he spoke from the podium in his introductory press conference Thursday morning, Durkin told the room of reporters how he planned to turn the program around after a 3-9 season.

The former Michigan defensive coordinator said he planned to build on the “blue collar” work ethic already in place at Maryland and that his immediate focus was on the school’s current recruiting class.

The biggest thing for me is getting on the phone with the guys that we are actively recruiting as well as getting new guys on board and hitting the ground running,” Durkin said.

Touted as one of the top recruiters in the nation, Durkin wasted no time reaching out to prospective players. Rahshaun Smith, ranked the No. 2 inside linebacker in the country, according to 247Sports.com, tweeted a photo of himself and Durkin during a visit to College Park Friday.

Meanwhile, members of Maryland’s highly regarded 2016 recruiting class seem to have approved of Durkin as the new leader of the program. DeMatha Catholic wide receiver D.J. Turner and running back Lorenzo Harrison, who are both Maryland commits, told Brandon Parker of The Washington Post they agreed with the choice of Durkin as head coach.

Much of these recruits’ commitment to the Terps may be contingent on whether offensive coordinator Mike Locksley, who is largely responsible for attracting local talent, such as four-star Bullis quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr., retains his position with the team.

Although he was ranked the 2012 recruiter of the year by Rivals.com, Durkin does not have a foothold in the D.C.-Maryland-Virginia area like Locksley and may need the offensive coordinator on staff to preserve incoming recruits.

But the new head coach said he will be “deliberate” in hiring the right people for the job. Whether that includes Locksley or any of the current coaching staff has not been decided.

Despite not having a background in the area, Durkin’s resume as a recruiter and coach speaks for itself with four top-11 national recruiting classes while at the University of Florida, a win in the Birmingham Bowl and coordinating the Wolverines fourth-ranked defense in the country.

“We wanted someone with a strong background that had a winning pedigree,” Maryland Athletic Director Kevin Anderson said. “The other thing was we wanted was someone who was going to build these young men to be good role models and achieve academically in the classroom.”

Durkin said his upbringing in Youngstown, Ohio, where he learned the value of hard work, translated into his coaching style. He said he will look for the similar values in his recruits.

Guys that are competitors, they find a way to get to the top,” Durkin said. “Whatever environment they are in, they are going to fight and scrap and somehow get to the top of that environment. Those are the types of guys we are looking for in this conference.”

Turning around a program that just came off one of its worst seasons in recent memory is a tall order, but Durkin is confident it starts by building a championship-caliber work ethic.

“I truly believe in being a blue collar, hard working team, Durkin said. “You can out-effort people on and off the field, that’s what I’m from. I’ve learned those values a long time ago and that’s what we’ll be.”