Maryland has hired Michigan defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin to replace former head coach Randy Edsall, the school announced Wednesday. The Terps were one of the first teams with an opening, firing Edsall after the team's Oct. 10 loss to Ohio State.
When the job first opened, athletic director Kevin Anderson explained the Terps were moving on from Edsall in part to find an "exciting, wide-open offense" to excite the fan base. School president Wallace Loh echoed that desire, even mentioning Eagles HC Chip Kelly by name on camera.
Other big-name coaches with extensive offensive backgrounds were linked to the vacancy. Texans HC Bill O'Brien was reported to be interested, which he later denied. Mississippi State HC Dan Mullen's name was repeatedly connected to the job, and Maryland planned to meet with former Georgia HC Mark Richt. Chargers OC Frank Reich, a former Maryland QB, reportedly interviewed for the job, as did Toronto Argonauts HC Scott Milanovich (another former Maryland QB).
Some of those names may sound outlandish for a job like Maryland's, but with an upcoming $155 million facility being built and an increased financial commitment from Under Armour CEO (and former Terrapin player) Kevin Plank, the Terrapins seemed to be setting themselves up to be bigger players than expected in the coaching carousel.
No matter how qualified Durkin is, to follow all that up by hiring a defensive assistant who has never been a head coach is, well, puzzling. And justified or not, it's going to disappoint many Maryland fans. Durkin finished fourth in a Testudo Times readers' poll of seven potential candidates for the position Monday, well behind Richt and Mullen and slightly behind Reich.
There's plenty to like about Durkin. He's coached under some of the best minds in the game, won Rivals.com's National Recruiter of the Year award in 2012 and instantly turned a good Michigan defense into one of the best in the nation.
And Durkin could hire a spread-based offensive coordinator to help mitigate his lack of an offensive background. It's worked for Gary Patterson at TCU with the likes of Justin Fuente, Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie, and with the right assistant hires the Terrapin staff could turn out just fine.
But this still feels like the unimaginative SEC East strategy of just hiring a former Saban assistant more than any revolutionary change of heart from the Terps. Durkin coached under both of the big dogs in the conference, Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaugh, and Maryland's clearly banking on some of that rubbing off.
Loh specifically mentioned Harbaugh and Meyer when talking about the ideal candidate:
The personality to project themself well, vis a vis the boosters, vis a vis the media. You have to have an outsized personality here. It's not just knowing the X's and O's. That's why you have the Jim Harbaughs, the Urban Meyers.
So, yes, Maryland gets to point to that experience under the two conference heavyweights when justifying the hire. But after talking up the need to excite fans with an offensive-minded coach, the Terrapins' ultimate hire fell short of the initial expectations they set.