Seven weeks after saying it would hire an offensive-minded head coach to replace Randy Edsall, Maryland announced Wednesday that Michigan defensive coordinator DJ Durkin has been named to the position.
He will be introduced Thursday at 11 a.m. during a news conference on Maryland's campus that will air on Big Ten Network.
Durkin, 37, comes from an impressive coaching legacy and has served on the staffs of Jim Harbaugh and Urban Meyer. He also has the reputation of being a stellar recruiter and was named Rivals.com's Recruiter of the Year in 2012 while at Florida.
“We began this search looking for a candidate with qualities that aligned with our vision for the football program, and throughout the process it became clear D.J. was the perfect fit,” Maryland athletic director Kevin Anderson said in a release. “He has had success at some of the nation's most preeminent football programs, is recognized as one of the top recruiters in the country and is widely respected as one the top young coaches across the college football landscape.”
When Edsall was fired on Oct. 11, Anderson indicated that he was hoping to find a coach to “excite the fan base.”
In Durkin, Maryland is getting a defensive coach with a proven track record at major programs that also includes special teams experience — the Terps didn't have a special teams coordinator in 2015.
Durkin's Michigan defense ranked fourth nationally in total defense and 11th in scoring defense this fall. The Wolverines had a run of three straight shutouts in late September and early October that included a 28-0 win at Maryland on Oct. 3.
“Maryland's commitment to excellence in the classroom, on the field and in the community aligns with my principles of building an elite program,” Durkin said in a release. “I look forward to bringing an exciting and successful brand of football to our passionate fan base and supporters.”
Before joining Harbaugh at Michigan, Durkin spent five seasons at Florida, including the final two as the Gators defensive coordinator. He was also linebackers coach and special teams coordinator. In 2014, Florida ranked ninth in total defense and 24th in scoring defense. In Durkin's first season as a defensive coordinator, the Gators were eighth and 15th in total defense and scoring defense.
Durkin also served as Florida's interim coach in the Birmingham Bowl in January after Will Muschamp was fired, and he led the Gators to a 28-20 win over East Carolina.
“D.J. is one of the bright young minds in the coaching profession,” Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley said. “He is a great teacher, recruiter and has a deep passion for the game and helping young men develop both on and off the field. He did a wonderful job while here at the University of Florida. Everyone here loved working with D.J. He is a winner.”
Durkin previously worked under Harbaugh at Stanford from 2007-09, where Durkin was the defensive ends coach and special teams coordinator. Cardinal defensive ends ranked 11th nationally in sacks per game in 2007 and 2009.
Durkin, a native of Youngstown, Ohio, was a four-year starter and two-year captain at defensive end and linebacker at Bowling Green. He led the Falcons in sacks in 1998.
Meyer gave Durkin his first coaching job at Bowling Green as a graduate assistant on defense in 2001. He was also a graduate assistant under Tyrone Willingham at Notre Dame in 2003 and 2004. Durkin was reunited with Meyer at Florida in 2010 before he was retained by Muschamp.
“I think it's a great hire,” said Gary Blackney, who coached Durkin at Bowling Green and went on to become defensive coordinator at Maryland under Ralph Friedgen. “His pedigree is outstanding. There probably aren't too many people in the country, who as such a young guy, have coached for so many outstanding coaches. He'll rally the alumni and pull a lot of people back into that program.”
Durkin takes over at Maryland for Edsall, who was fired with a 22-34 record despite leading the Terps to back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in more than a decade. The Terps were outscored 122-34 in Edsall's final three games.
Durkin inherits a team that has solid pieces on defense but a number of questions on offense.
The Terps ranked 11th in the Big Ten Conference in scoring defense, total defense and pass defense and ninth in rush defense.
Middle linebacker Jermaine Carter Jr. tied for eighth in the conference with 8.6 tackles per game and tied for sixth in tackles for loss with 1.17 per game. The Terps will graduate three of their four starters in the secondary, but they'll likely get back All-Big Ten cornerback Will Likely, a junior.
Up front, defensive tackle Quinton Jefferson (12 1/2 tackles for loss, 6 1/2 sacks) has another year of eligibility remaining, while defensive tackle Azubuike Ukandu (6 1/2 tackles for loss, 2 1/2 sacks) came on strong at the end of the year.
Maryland's offense struggled this season, though the Terps finished fourth in the Big Ten in rushing offense after senior running back Brandon Ross' strong finish to the season and junior quarterback Perry Hills' midseason performance.
But there are questions about who will be quarterback next season after Hills, Caleb Rowe and Shane Cockerille all struggled at times. The Terps also graduate three starters along the offensive line, and will be thin at running back after Ross' graduation.
Durkin will start to assemble his coaching staff, and it's unclear if Mike Locksley, who served as Maryland's interim coach for the final six games of the season, will be retained. Locksley had served as Maryland's offensive coordinator since 2012, and last week, the Terps voiced their support for him to remain involved with the program moving forward.
Locksley is also the lead recruiter for a number of Maryland's top commitments in the Class of 2016, currently ranked 37th by 247sports.com. Four-star quarterback Dwayne Haskins of Bullis went on an official visit to Florida over the weekend.
But Durkin has also shown recruiting prowess. In 2012, Durkin recruited five prospects ranked in the Rivals250 to Florida. And in the fertile recruiting grounds of the Washington area, Durkin's abilities could help continue “The Movement” to keep top local prospects home.
ESPN college football recruiting analyst Tom VanHaaren tweeted Durkin “will certainly provide a spark in recruiting for Maryland,” and four-star defensive end Terrell Hall from St. John's, a Maryland target, tweeted, “Great hire for Maryland!”
Defensive tackle Adam McLean, who withdrew from Maryland because of an eligibility issue in September and visited Temple over the weekend, tweeted, “On board with the Durkin move.”
SI.com and ESPN.com were the first to report Durkin's hiring.
No matter what he does on the recruiting trail, Durkin still faces an uphill battle at Maryland, especially in the Big Ten's East division, which features two of Durkin's coaching mentors in Harbaugh and Meyer, whose programs are among the best in the nation.
Plus, Michigan State is playing in the Big Ten championship game for the third time in five years, and Spartans coach Mark Dantonio has won 11 games in five of the past six years. Durkin will also have to battle Penn State coach James Franklin for recruiting superiority locally.
Durkin's first head coaching gig comes with plenty of work to do, both to continue some of the success that Edsall had while also alleviating the ills that had plagued the program this fall.
Sun reporters Don Markus and Childs Walker, and Orlando Sentinel reporter Edgar Thompson contributed to this article.