This weekend, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh will battle a familiar face.
DJ Durkin, who was the defensive coordinator at Michigan last season, is in his first head coaching job at Maryland, and Harbaugh has been impressed with the work he’s done so far.
After struggling to a 3-9 season in 2015, the Terrapins are off to a much more successful 2016. More than halfway through the season, Durkin is 5-3 with two Big Ten wins.
“He’s done a fabulous job,” Harbaugh said Monday. “Just always respected DJ as a tremendous competitor at the highest level — smile thinking about his competitiveness, and also always happy for a friend’s success.”
The Daily spoke with Durkin at Big Ten Football Media Days in July about Harbaugh, his new gig and moving to Maryland.
Question: What are you pitching to recruits at Maryland now that maybe wasn’t pitched before? You’re off to a pretty nice start, better than the previous three or four Maryland classes started out.
DJ Durkin: I don’t know what was pitched before, but for us, there’s a lot of excitement around our program right now. There’s a facility being built right now that will be as nice as anywhere in the country. There’s a brand-new coaching staff. Obviously, just being fairly new to the Big Ten right now, just new life, a new way of doing things in and around our team. Our players are very excited about stuff, so they’re conveying that to guys when they come visit.
Q: (This is your) first official head coaching job — what’s been the best part about it, and what’s been the biggest challenge of it?
DD: One and the same. The best part is the challenge of it. I like being busy and going and things happening. I think it’s good when you wake up in the morning and you have a list of things you feel you need to do and have a purpose. Those lists of things have gotten a little longer now that I’m a head coach — there’s a lot more to it — but I’ve enjoyed it. I have great people around me in terms of our coaching staff and administration. Our players have bought in really well.
Q: Last year, you had a highly successful season as defensive coordinator at Michigan. Can you reflect (on) the type of environment that’s there, the relationships you’ve made and what it will be like facing them this season?
DD: I just, whatever it was, an hour ago, saw Jourdan Lewis out there. Jourdan is a great kid, a great player. I’m very proud of all of his success and what he’s been able to accomplish. Whenever you go into games, go into battle with guys, you build relationships with your players and the coaches you’re with, so obviously there’s feelings there. At the same time, we’re now on the opposite sideline and they’re going to be doing everything they can to beat us and we’ll be doing everything we can to beat them. At the end of the day, our relationships will last a lot further than any one game, and that’s the cool thing about it. You get to look around and there are so many guys that I’ve been able to just be some small part of their career and their life, and when you hear back or talk to them or see them or whatever, it always brings a smile to your face.
Q: Can you reflect on your relationship with Under Armour and how that’s helping you with recruiting and building your program at Maryland?
DD: I’m not quite sure you can possibly measure how much that relationship helps us. I think it’s a (more) unique relationship than anywhere in the country, not just with the brand and the company, but with the people that are behind that company. The great part for me is the values and the things that are important to (Under Armour CEO) Kevin Plank and his company are really right in line with what’s important to our program. … What they’ve done in their growth has been remarkable. When you look at what they’ve done in such a short amount of time, that’s pretty special. We’re trying to — in a different industry, a different setting — we’re trying to do the same thing. We’re here and we’re trying to build and go there and keep going up like they’re doing.”
TMD: So how do you like living in Maryland compared to Ann Arbor?
DD: I love it. My family loves it. I mean, we’ve been so blessed and fortunate. The places we’ve been able to live at and be associated with have all been great. Ann Arbor is a really neat place, a great college town. But where we live now, it’s pretty exciting. I think it’s one of the coolest parts of the country. There’s so much to do and see. My kids love it and my wife loves it. It’s been a really smooth, easy transition, which you can’t always say.
TMD: Were your kids afraid of that move?
DD: No, they were all in. They flew with me to the press conference, and once they got a pet turtle and met Testudo, they were Terp fans. Young kids, not much you have to sell them on.