New Maryland offensive coordinator Matt Canada talks about his unit on the first day of spring practice in College Park. (Don Markus/Baltimore Sun video)
COLLEGE PARK — There are two ways to view new Maryland offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Matt Canada’s resume.
The majority of Canada’s career has been spent over a couple of decades at three programs. More recently, Canada has worked at the same number of schools, hopping quickly from one to the next.
After spending the first 17 years split among Indiana, Butler and Northern Illinois — including two stints with the Hoosiers, where he also played — Canada made one-year stops at Pittsburgh and LSU before landing with the Terps in January.
Third-year Maryland coach DJ Durkin did a “thorough background" check when he was considering Canada as Walt Bell’s replacement and said he had no trepidations about hiring him. Bell left in mid-January to take a similar job — with a much larger profile and paycheck — at Florida State.
‘I know a lot of people … that have a good relationship with Matt as well, not a concern at all,” Durkin said before the Terps held their first spring practice Monday afternoon. “Sometimes in our profession things happen that are totally out of your control. To just mark it that way on someone is not fair.”
Canada, whose recent stops also included one season at Wisconsin (2012) and three at North Carolina State (2013-2015), inherits an offense that never reached its potential in Bell’s two seasons, largely last year because of the health of its quarterbacks.
“We’ve got a lot of really good players,” Canada said after practice. “I think the job Coach Durkin and his staff did has been amazing. We got a lot of talent. I’m excited. Today was day one. We’re going to figure out who we are, what our skill set is, whatever we can do well.”
Asked to describe his system or philosophy, Canada was so succinct that he started to answer before the reporter finished his question.
“Score points,” he said. "It's a silly answer. I think everywhere we’ve been we’ve done it a little bit different. We've had multiple backs at one place, we had two really good quarterbacks at one place, we threw it a whole bunch at one place.
“We take pride at finding what our players do well and maximizing the talents of the players we have at that time. We certainly have a system, the way we call formations, the way we [make] calls, but the offense every year has been different based on what guys do well.”
Though the offense struggled in Canada’s only season in Baton Rouge, averaging a shade under 14 points in losses for the 9-4 Tigers, many believe that LSU coach Ed Orgeron used Canada as the scapegoat for the team’s early-season loss to Troy.
By the end of the season, the split seemed more a formality despite the fact that Canada was still owed two years’ salary at $1.5 million annually. Asked about the vagabond turn his career has taken the past few years, Canada said the reasons for the moves were different.
Canada, whose longest stint came when coached at Indiana from 2004 through 2010, said the recent moves go counter to his personality.
"As you look at that, it’s funny, but I don’t like change, I don’t like moving, so that doesn’t look the way it is,” he said. “There was a couple of opportunities that came up that you thought were opportunities you had to try to jump at.
“The circumstances, they were different everywhere we’ve been. Early on there we were going pretty well and then there’s been more change. Everyone’s been great. I’ve met great people everywhere and as I look around, my daughter said it best, ‘It’s been awesome everywhere we’ve been.’ ”
In his only season at Wisconsin in 2012, the Badgers won the Big Ten championship game, 70-31, over Nebraska and finished No. 13 nationally in rushing with over 236 yards. Montee Ball was named winner of the Doak Walker Award as the nation’s top rusher.
In the final year of a three-year stint at N.C. State in 2015, the Wolfpack averaged 33 points and lost a shootout to No. 3 Clemson, 56-41. In the two years he spent with Canada, Jacoby Brissett threw 43 touchdown passes compared with 11 interceptions.
In Canada’s one season at Pitt, the Panthers scored a school-record 40.9 points a game and were third in the Atlantic Coast Conference in rushing with more than 225 yards a game. Along with his recruiting, it helped Canada become a finalist for the Frank Broyles Award, given to the nation’s top assistant.
Much of Maryland’s success in 2018 will be based on the health of quarterbacks Tyrrell Pigrome and Kasim Hill, both of whom suffered torn ACLs early last season. While neither will take part in team drills during spring practice, the new offense is being installed with them in mind.
“The guy who is a winner, the guy who is a student of the game and the guy who’s the most accurate is the quarterback,” Canada said. “We’ll run the plays with whoever gives us the best chance to win. I’m aware of what those guys do well and we’ll pay attention to that.”
Said Durkin, “When we’re healthy at quarterback, we’re as good as there is.”
Durkin said Canada’s history of success in three Power Five conferences, including the Big Ten, as well as his ability to adjust his system to the players he was about to coach, were the biggest attractions in his hiring.
“Experience always helps,” Durkin said. “Matt’s called it in several different leagues at the highest level and been successful. Those are always good things. When you’re an experienced guy, you have battle scars.
“You’ve learned and sometimes when an idea comes up, you can draw back and say, ‘That’s sounds good, but I’ve tried that before and this is the reason it wasn't so great or why it was really good. He certainly has that.”