Report: Michigan DC D.J. Durkin a strong candidate for Maryland football coach

Michigan DC D.J. Durkin has reportedly emerged as a strong candidate for the Maryland head coaching job.

Michigan defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin has emerged as a strong candidate for the Maryland head coaching job, according to Yahoo! Sports.

Durkin, 37, has been interviewed recently by Maryland officials, who came away impressed, the website reported. A spokesman for Maryland athletic director Kevin Anderson declined comment Wednesday.

The 2-9 Terps finish the 2015 season Saturday at Rutgers, and are looking to give interim head coach Mike Locksley his first victory since taking over when Randy Edsall was fired last month.

With 14 jobs currently open in the Football Bowl Subdivision – and the vacancy in College Park considered somewhere in the middle – sources familiar with the search said that Anderson would like to get the new coach on board as soon as possible.

The 9-2 Wolverines, who play archrival Ohio State in Ann Arbor, Mich., on Saturday, are currently 10th in the College Football Playoff rankings. Though a long shot to be included in the four-team playoffs, Michigan could wind up in the Rose Bowl, Fiesta Bowl or one of the non-playoff Florida bowls on New Year’s Day.

Asked Wednesday in Ann Arbor whether he interviewed for the Maryland job, MLive.com reported that Durkin did not give an answer either way, saying only, “To answer rumors and speculation right now and put something to it [isn’t something I'll do]. My total focus 100 percent is on Ohio State and nothing else this week.”

One aspect of Durkin’s coaching resume that is attractive to Anderson is the quality of the head coaches under whom he has served, according to a person familiar with Anderson’s thinking.

Durkin worked for Jim Harbaugh at both Michigan and Stanford, as well as under Urban Meyer as a graduate assistant at Bowling Green (where Durkin played linebacker and defensive end), and as linebackers coach/special teams coordinator in Meyer’s last season at Florida. 

Durkin worked as the defensive coordinator in Gainesville, Fla., when Will Muschamp was hired as coach, and served briefly as the Gators interim coach when Muschamp was fired last season.

Florida was eighth and 15th nationally in total defense in Durkin’s two seasons at defensive coordinator. Michigan is ranked second nationally this season in total defense.  

It isn’t certain whether Durkin is the top candidate or one of several that Maryland is considering.

Durkin is also known as a top-notch recruiter whose bases extend from the Midwest to Florida. He was named the Rivals.com Recruiter of the Year in 2012.

If Durkin is hired at Maryland, there is a possibility that Locksley could stay on as the offensive coordinator while overseeing the team’s recruiting. The Terps currently have one of their best recruiting classes in recent history – led by four-star quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr. – in large part because of what Locksley has done the past three years.

There is also a possibility that Durkin could use his ties to the Southeastern Conference to bring in a coach with ties to the Maryland-D.C.-Virginia area such as former Friendship Collegiate Academy coach Azaar Abdul-Rahim, who joined Nick Saban’s staff as a defensive specialist in 2014. A number of current Terps played for Abdul-Rahim in high school.

If Durkin is hired, it would be counter to what Anderson and school president Wallace Loh said at the time of Edsall’s firing on Oct. 11. Both promised that the Terps would be looking for someone to “excite the fan base” by playing a high-scoring offense. Durkin has coached only defense.

Durkin is making around $800,000 annually at Michigan, about double what Locksley was getting before receiving a pay increase earlier this year and then getting bumped up again when Edsall was fired. It likely means that while not having to give Durkin that much more than the $2.1 million Edsall was making, there will be significant increases for his coordinators.

Durkin is known for his fiery personality that is quite similar to that of Harbaugh, and Michigan linebacker Joe Bolden told MLive.com earlier this year, “I've never met a guy with more passion, and I might make up a word, but 'explosability' [for football].He'll be in the meeting room and just out of nowhere, his passion just overtakes him."

In the same story that included a former Stanford offensive lineman describing Durkin’s one-on-one basketball games against Harbaugh as “fight to the death." Durkin said in the article that his personality is not for show.

"None of it is by design, it's not like, 'Hey, I'm going to be intense today.' That's [just] me," Durkin said. "If you're yourself, players respond to it. You're not trying to put on a show or do something different. It's just about being yourself."

don.markus@baltsun.com

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