2016 marked a changing of the guard on the sidelines in College Park as D.J. Durkin took over for Randy Edsall.
All things considered, Durkin had a very strong first season at Maryland.
The 2015 season was an incredibly dismal campaign that featured about as much turmoil as a program can face. Edsall entered the season trying to keep the program trending upward and just keep commitments from high-profile local recruits like Dwayne Haskins and Keandre Jones.
After just six games, Edsall was fired following the Ohio State game. Interim coach Mike Locksley didn’t fare a whole lot better as he won just one game during his six-game tenure with the program.
Athletic director Kevin Anderson didn’t take long to reach a decision. Just four days after the season finale win over Rutgers, Durkin was hired as the next coach of the Terrapins.
The Durkin era got off to about as good a start as anyone could’ve hoped for. Maryland raced out to a 4-0 start and outscored their opponents 173-58.
After a convincing 50-7 win over Purdue, that’s where things started to head south with Big Ten play getting underway. Over the next eight games, the Terps were only victorious on two occasions (Michigan State and Rutgers).
In games against Michigan and Ohio State, Maryland was outscored 121-6 and couldn’t get anything going on offense.
Despite the late season struggles, the Terps were able to top the Scarlet Knights and become bowl eligible. That’s definitely something to be proud in the first year under a new regime.
“You know, the biggest thing when you’re coming in, trying to establish, the word ‘culture’ is used a lot,” Durkin said during the Quick Lane Bowl press conference earlier this week. “There’s a lot that goes into that, but it was very important, I think just trying to establish it with our guys of how we do things, the type of mindset, how we practice, how we train, how we play. I’m very pleased with the amount of buy-in we had from our seniors and our team and this is a great reward for them.”
Despite the results on the field, Durkin brought an energy that the Terps haven’t had in some time. Fans did have high hopes for the Edsall era after it began with an upset win over Miami (Fla.), but that was arguably the biggest victory during his tenure.
It’s also noting that star cornerback Will Likely and quarterback Perry Hills missed significant time due to injury. Likely was diagnosed with a torn ACL in October and missed the remainder of the season while Hills missed two games and was knocked out of three more.
It did seem as though the players bought into what Durkin was preaching.
“I think the biggest thing for me going through this is we’ve been able to acquire a great staff with Kevin’s (Anderson) assistance and allow me to do some things to get quality staff,” Durkin added. “We have some great coaches on our staff that have really helped in a lot of ways. I think as a head coach you’re only as good as the people that are around you and I can’t say enough about our staff.”
Durkin added a tremendous amount of acumen and experience in his coaching staff. Mike London and Pete Lembo have been head coaches for multiple years and Andy Buh was a very established defensive coordinator that has spent time at schools like Kentucky and Stanford.
It was definitely a big deal for Durkin to bring in innovative football minds. Offensive coordinator Walt Bell showed that he wasn’t afraid to try anything and with the personnel continuing to get better, this could be a lethal system.
For this current group, Durkin led the Terps to a bowl game and it’s a chance for the seniors to go out on a high note. As a fan of the program, that’s really all you can ask for of a first year head coach.
“They’ve gone through a lot of adversity throughout their career and so, to be able to play in the postseason, you know, that’s one of the great things about college football, when you get to go to a bowl game and all the rewards that they come with. It’s one of the cool parts about the sport we get to coach, and so I’m excited for our guys, for our seniors in particular that they stayed the course with us.”