Maryland football head coach DJ Durkin emphasized the importance of attracting home-grown talent to the program and the impact it will have in the future while speaking during the Povich Year-End Reception at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism.
The program has recent success recruiting top local talent, putting forth a top-20 ranked 2017 recruiting class that featured players like DeMatha products running back Anthony McFarland and offensive lineman Marcus Minor. Durkin talked about the domino effect those recruits could create.
“We just had several guys who were the cream of the crop and were offered by everyone in the country decide to stay here,” Durkin said. “So to me, that opens the door and makes it easier for the next guy to make a decision to be like, ‘You know what? That guy was as good as I’ve ever seen and he decided to stay at Maryland. Why shouldn’t I?’”
Freshman running back Lorenzo Harrison, who also came from DeMatha as a part of the 2016 recruiting class, contributed immediately in his first year, rushing for 633 yards and five touchdowns. Harrison was the first commit in the 2016 recruiting class. Durkin noted that the program’s continued success in bringing local talent will pay dividends soon.
“That makes the difference between us being competitive in our conference and winning our conference,” Durkin said. “Those couple players each year, us being able to keep a couple at home.”
Durkin explained what has drawn top local recruits to the program. He turned to many factors, including the top public school education that Maryland has to offer, the school’s relationship with Under Armour, as well as the convenience of staying home and the opportunity for athletes to brand themselves. Durkin also said that the new practice facility currently under construction has been drawing in recruits.
“That’s going to be a state-of-the-art facility,” Durkin said. “It incorporates academics, as well as athletics all in one building.”
The new Cole Field House will feature an indoor practice facility, as well as strength and conditioning rooms, a team locker room and meeting offices.
In the 2016 season, Maryland bounced back under Durkin. After going 3-9 in 2015, the Terps finished with a 6-7 record and a bowl game appearance. Durkin had been an assistant under successful college coaches like Ohio State’s Urban Meyer and Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh, but said he still faced a lot of uncertainty when he became a head coach.
“You never quite know until you’re sitting in that chair,” Durkin said. “Obviously, there’s always things to learn from.”
Durkin also commented on former Maryland cornerback and return specialist Will Likely, who wasn’t selected in the NFL Draft but will report to the New York Jets minicamp. He expressed confidence that Likely, who is still recovering from a torn ACL, will be able to make his way onto a team.
“If there’s anyone that could make it with his stature and his frame, with his circumstances with the knee and all that, he’s the guy I put my money on,” Durkin said. “When’s he’s healthy, you’re going to see teams with interest … I think he’ll make it and do a great job.”
In terms of the future of the Maryland program, Durkin said he doesn’t view the job as a stepping stone. While acknowledging that Maryland still has a ways to go before competing with powerhouses like Michigan and Ohio State, Durkin also spoke about the value of staying and building a program from the bottom-up.
“People make places what they are,” Durkin said. “I think we have all the necessary resources and attributes as a program to win at the highest level. … I want our name to be right next to [Alabama] as a program that year in and year out, consistently, is going to win a lot of football games.”