Maryland football coach DJ Durkin stopped by the journalism school on Monday afternoon for an on-the-record chat with student reporters. Naturally, there were some gems during the hour-long conversation.
The Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism held a similar event with Durkin last year. (As far as annual traditions go, I’m on board with this.) Back then, he was still new and everyone was becoming familiar with him. He was still telling Jim Harbaugh and Urban Meyer stories.
Now, with a full season and a top-20 recruiting class under his belt, the questions are more about how he builds for the future. The answers to those questions are mostly related to recruiting. Everything that happens to a program affects recruiting in one way or another, from on-field success to new facilities to players getting drafted.
Durkin is optimistic that several players in the Terps’ recent recruiting classes will have bright NFL futures, but Maryland’s newest crop of pros is fighting for spots in camps after having zero draftees. Will Likely, long considered the Terps’ best NFL prospect, is in Jets minicamp but hasn’t yet signed. Durkin is an energetic guy who will give a passionate answer to pretty much any question you can come up with, and his praise for Likely will turn us all into believers.
I always look for the guy with the chip on their shoulder, a guy that has something to prove. Right when he shakes your hand, he’s got something to prove. Will lives every day of his life that way. I remember him out of high school, he was a very talented football player, highly recruited but everyone kinda questioned, ‘Is he big enough?’ He built up an ‘I wanna show you’ mentality back then as a high school junior, senior, that he has carried with him. How long he’ll play in the NFL, will he make it, I don’t know. There’s so many factors that go into that that are out of everyone’s control. There’s a lot of guys that have played eight years in the NFL that, if they had tried out for another team, wouldn’t have made it one. There’s so much that goes into that. But if there’s anyone that could make it with his stature, his frame, his circumstance with the knee and all that, he’s the guy I’d put my money on.
The Terps’ coach spent plenty of time detailing how much of his time is consumed by recruiting, and why it’s so important. To Durkin, finding talented players that will fit in at Maryland is “the lifeblood” of the program.
We have, on our staff, a recruiting board. It has all these names on it, ranked by position, all the stuff on there. The amount of conversations we have about these guys, you would all probably look at me like, ‘You are crazy. ... Are you kidding me.’ That’s what we talk about. You bring in 20 guys a year, so you’re picking guys around the country, bringing in 20, you can’t be wrong on many of them. You’re never gonna get 100 percent, but if you’re not batting around 75 percent, look out now. You’re gonna struggle.
He also fielded a question about Cordarrian Richardson, who committed to Maryland from outer space on National Signing Day and signed with UCF the next morning. While many people (I’ll include myself) had forgotten about that frenzy, it was interesting to finally hear Durkin’s perspective on how that went down.
He committed to us without us actually sending him a scholarship paper. We had our reservations for reasons. When I reiterated those to him that morning before he committed, I told him again, and he still went ahead and committed, and I didn’t waver from that. I think he thought maybe we’d just be, ‘Oh, he’s coming, OK!’ There’s a lot more that goes into accepting someone into your program than just how they play on the field. He’s a terrific football player, and I don’t want this to come off as some major issue. I just leave it at, we had some things we needed to look into before we were comfortable with extending him a scholarship here, and we hadn’t done that at that point.
Durkin spoke to us for about an hour, after which I may or may not have wanted to run through a wall and then sign to play for his team.