When Mike London joined the Maryland coaching staff earlier this month, it added another dimension of experience to first-time head coach DJ Durkin's coaching staff in College Park.
London, who led Virginia's program for six years before he resigned in late November, joins former Syracuse coach and new Maryland defensive coordinator Scott Shafer on the defensive side of the ball as defensive line coach and associate head coach.
Durkin and Shafer worked together at Stanford in 2007, and while Durkin and London didn't know each other personally, they had mutual acquaintances. And after being around London, Durkin knew he was someone he wanted to have on his staff.
"Mike believes in the core beliefs, the core values of our program, of what I've set out for our team, our culture," Durkin said Tuesday. "He's 100 percent in line with that. He and I spent an afternoon together and we both probably knew it was the perfect fit."
London struggled in his six seasons at Virginia and was 27-46 in his tenure, with a high-water mark of 8-5 in 2011, which earned him ACC Coach of the Year honors in his second season in Charlottesville, Va. Previously, he spent two seasons as Richmond's coach and led the Spiders to the 2008 Football Championship Subdivision title. Overall, the former Richmond defensive back spent 12 years of his coaching career at Virginia in three different stints.
So London has familiarity with the area, which could pay off in recruiting. While Durkin is regarded as one of the nation's top recruiters — he was Rivals.com's recruiter of the year in 2012 at Florida — he has no direct ties to the Washington and Baltimore areas and primarily recruited the southeast. London has had success recruiting in the region, especially in the fertile Tidewater area.
London's 2014 recruiting class at Virginia had two five-star recruits in safety Quin Blanding and defensive tackle Andrew Brown. Blanding is already a star with the Cavaliers. He earned numerous freshman All-America honors and was ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year last season, and he followed up this season by earning more All-ACC and All-America honors after he ranked second in the ACC with 9.6 tackles per game.
London attracted four top-35 recruiting classes to Charlottesville during his tenure, according to 247sports.com. Over the same period of time, Maryland's highest ranked recruiting class was No. 38 in 2012, and London's classes peaked at No. 23 in 2011.
It's obvious that Durkin added recruiting muscle to Maryland's staff in London and defensive backs coach Aazaar Abdul-Rahim, a former high school coach in Washington who connections to a number of notable recruits. For someone with minimal ties to the area, it's a pair of savvy moves to boost the coaching staff, especially with the future of offensive coordinator Mike Locksley, the lead recruiter for many top area recruits, uncertain.
While London's addition can help attract top-tier talent to College Park, his presence on the coaching staff can help with Maryland's on-field product. Shafer's units have shown immediate improvement in his first year taking over defenses, and London has a solid base on the defensive line to help mold in Shafer's scheme.
London has spent 15 years as a defensive line coach with Virginia, Boston College, William & Mary and the Houston Texans. In 2007, Virginia was sixth in the nation in sacks, and future second overall NFL draft pick Chris Long led the way with 14 sacks.
While defensive end Yannick Ngakoue declared for the NFL draft in late November and is taking his single-season record 13 1/2 sacks with him, London inherits some talented pieces that showed improvement under second-year defensive line coach Chad Wilt in 2015.
Defensive tackle Quinton Jefferson had a breakout year with 12 1/2 tackles for loss and 6 1/2 sacks. He would be the centerpiece of a defensive line if he returns for his fifth year — he has the option of declaring for the NFL draft — and he would be joined on the interior of the line by Azubuike Ukandu, who moved into the starting lineup in October and finished with 6 1/2 tackles for loss and 2 1/2 sacks.
Defensive end Roman Braglio started 10 games opposite Ngakoue, while Jesse Aniebonam, who had 3 1/2 sacks in his sophomore season, could fill Ngakoue's role as a fearsome pass rusher from the outside. The Terps had a deep rotation along the offensive line, with David Shaw — who suffered a season-ending elbow injury against West Virginia — Kingsley Opara, Cavon Walker, Chandler Burkett, Brett Kulka and Mbi Tanyi all seeing time up front.
In vetting London, Durkin said he talked to many people he trusted in order to learn more about him. He was satisfied and excited about what he heard others say. And so London joined Durkin and the Terps, another experienced coach who knows the area and can provide Durkin another resource as a first-time coach.
"You'd be hard-pressed out there who'd say a bad thing about Mike, so that was an easy one for me. … That guy's about as solid as they come," Durkin said. "I know with the opportunity to get him here I did everything possible I could to make sure that happened."
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