COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) — DJ Durkin brings enthusiasm and a Big Ten background into his new job as Maryland’s head football coach.
Unfortunately, the former Michigan defensive coordinator doesn’t have a wealth of talent at his disposal. Durkin takes over a team that went 3-9 last season, 1-7 in the conference. The Terrapins dumped Randy Edsall in the midst of an eight-game losing skid that finally ended with a 46-41 win over Rutgers.
Maryland has thus far landed several solid recruits under Durkin, who won’t hesitate to put newcomers in the starting lineup.
“It’s a deep freshman class with talent and it’s guys I know have the right mindset to come in and play and help us,” Durkin said.
The upperclassmen can feel the difference a new coach makes.
“The culture that Coach Durkin’s brought in, it’s really making everyone compete,” senior quarterback Caleb Rowe said.
Still, it’s going to take some time before the Terrapins can stand up to East Division rivals Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State.
Durkin has assembled a solid staff that includes former Virginia head coach Mike London; former Ball State head coach Pete Lembo; defensive coordinator Mike Buh, who held the same job at Stanford and Cal; and offensive coordinator Walt Bell, whose Arkansas State team last year scored at least 37 points in nine games.
“You are only as good as the people you’re around, and we’ve assembled a great coaching staff I’m very excited about,” Durkin said. “You look at the experience level of the guys and their accomplishments professionally, I think that kind of speaks for itself.”
Some things to know about the Terps as they prepare for the 2016 season:
The competition at the most important position on the team could extend until the end of August.
Seniors Perry Hills and Rowe are the front-runners. Hills has the edge because of his ability to run with the ball — he ranked second on the team last year with 535 yards rushing — but both have a propensity to turn the ball over. Hills tossed 13 interceptions and Rowe was picked off 15 times. True freshman Tyrell Pigrome, the Gatorade Player of the Year in Alabama, has an outside shot of starting or at least getting significant playing time.
LIKELY A STAR
The most electrifying player on the team is senior William Likely — a defensive back, kick returner and part-time receiver.
Likely considered entering the NFL draft last spring, but said, “I just felt that I couldn’t leave my teammates like that.”
A starter on defense, Likely scored twice on punt returns, took a kickoff 100 yards for a TD and caught five passes.
The Terrapins probably can’t compete with the best teams in the Big Ten, so their success lies in starting 3-0 out of the conference against Howard, Florida International and Central Florida, then securing a few more wins among home games against Purdue, Rutgers and Minnesota and on the road at Indiana.
A .500 finish and bowl eligibility would be a tremendous success for a rebuilding team under a first-year coach. More likely, the Terrapins are looking at 4-8 or 5-7, which would at least serve as an improvement from last season.
The Terrapins host Howard University, a perfect opponent to launch the Durkin era. The Bison went 1-10 last year, including a 76-0 loss to Boston College and a 49-0 drubbing by Appalachian State.
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