Maryland coach DJ Durkin continues search for offensive coordinator

The easy expectation for DJ Durkin when he took over the Maryland program about two weeks ago would have been for him to put things together quickly and get moving in College Park.

But when asked about his plans for putting together his coaching staff and how soon he planned to do it, Durkin took a different tack.


"I'm going to be very deliberate about it," Durkin said. "As the right guys come forward, we'll keep working with it as we move forward."

Make no mistake, Durkin's first two weeks as Maryland coach have been hectic. He's been on the road recruiting and he's met with his team. He's started to put together his defensive staff, and he's worked to get things how he wants them.


But with a notable vacancy on his coaching staff at offensive coordinator, Durkin isn't rushing to fill that void. He knows there's a slim margin for error. The wrong move for the first-time head coach could set his program back significantly. So, in an exhaustive search, Durkin is waiting for all possible options to shake out before he finishes choosing his assistants.

"You've got to be right," Durkin said Tuesday. "You only get one chance to hire your first staff. I want to do it the right way. I don't want to hurry into something because everyone feels like you've got to have someone in place."

After Durkin was hired, USA Today linked Tennessee assistant Zach Azzanni to the coordinator position. In a radio appearance Tuesday, Durkin called incumbent offensive coordinator and former interim coach Mike Locksley "more than a consideration" to remain on the staff, something that would be a boost to local recruiting.

Durkin said there are "time-sensitive" factors that he's letting play out before he makes further moves to complete his coaching staff.

"Everyone can know and trust that it has been the most thorough process someone can go through to get that right. ... I'm going to give our players and our fans and our university and everyone on this staff the best opportunity to be successful on that side of the ball in what I think is the best fit for what we're trying to do," Durkin said.

Just this fall, the value of picking the right assistants was seen across college football. Oklahoma and Georgia, two big-name programs, were in need of new offensive coordinators after the Sooners fired Josh Heupel after a disappointing season and Bulldogs playcaller Mike Bobo took the coaching job at Colorado State.

Oklahoma hired East Carolina offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley, who piloted high-powered offenses as a young, up-and-coming coach with the Pirates. Georgia went with Brian Schottenheimer, who had mixed success in the NFL.

Less than a year later, Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops is prepping the Sooners for the College Football Playoff behind quarterback Baker Mayfield, who finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting. Georgia coach Mark Richt was fired and is leading the Miami program after the Bulldogs struggled offensively at times this season, especially in blowout losses to Alabama and Florida.

And Durkin doesn't have to look any further than his predecessor to evaluate the importance of making the right hires. Former Maryland coach Randy Edsall's first significant hires in 2011 were Gary Crowton and Todd Bradford as offensive and defensive coordinator, respectively. Crowton's spread offense with a mix of option runs didn't quite fit reigning Atlantic Coast Conference Rookie of the Year quarterback Danny O'Brien, and Bradford's defenses were gashed for at least 31 points eight times.

Each unit stabilized under their successors, but not before the Terps went 2-10 and a significant number of players transferred from the program.

So though Durkin moved quickly on adding defensive coordinator Scott Shafer, defensive line coach and associate head coach Mike London and defensive backs coach Aazaar Abdul-Rahim to his staff, he's taking his time on the other side of the ball.

The set of circumstances were different. The coaching tenures of Shafer at Syracuse and London at Virginia had ended in late November. Abdul-Rahim was assistant director of player personnel at Alabama.


"Those were guys that were obviously available right at the time and also guys that I was very comfortable with," Durkin said. "And not that I'm uncomfortable with someone else. There's a lot of things that go into this. There's timing at other jobs. There's the way things work out that way. There's a comfort level."

But right now, Durkin isn't rushing into anything. He's waiting to see how other dominoes in the coaching world fall before he makes his move to find the coordinator that fits his vision for the program.

He's not going to let outside pressure force him into a quick decision that he could regret down the line.

"That's not what we're going to do," Durkin said. "We're going to do it the right way and go full speed ahead and have a bunch of guys that are loving working together and getting this team ready."

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