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What Matt Canada said in his first public appearance as Maryland football’s interim head coach

He put the emphasis on ‘interim,’ plus some other takeaways from Canada’s appearance on Wednesday.

Matt Canada spoke to the media on Wednesday in his first public action as Maryland football’s acting head coach. Canada was elevated from his position as offensive coordinator on Saturday when the school placed DJ Durkin on administrative leave.

Canada put the emphasis on ‘interim’ head coach.

He appears to still view himself as an assistant while Maryland reviews the program.

“I’m the offensive coordinator. I’m still an assistant coach,” Canada said. “We’re working through this process. There’s a review and all those things going on, so it’s a different situation. It’s certainly a challenging situation. And the focus of that is we’re all still grieving for Jordan, and that’s what we’re focusing on as an entire program. We’ve got 110 players. We’ve got about 80 other people who work with our players, for our players. And we’re all doing that.”

His role is certainly different than it was five days ago, though.

“I’m an offensive coordinator, that’s my position. Now that this has happened in the past few days, I’ve met with about 40 of the defensive players for a very brief amount of time to make sure that they understand that they can come to me for whatever they need.

“I am not taking over the defense. We have a great defensive staff, we have a great defensive plan. But I have done that because I have been asked to step in in this time.

Maryland knows all eyes are on player safety now.

“We’ve got two breaks. We’ve got two tents, you guys are gonna be able to see practice, we’ve got two tents, water, gatorade, snacks in the breaks, all those things,” Canada said. “I think our practices have been extremely crisp. The focus of our players’ health and safety is No. 1 and our players are feeling that and understanding that.”

The training staff came under fire in the ESPN reports and during university president Wallace Loh’s press conference Tuesday, where he said mistakes were made handling Jordan McNair and that the school was accepting “moral and legal responsibility” for those mistakes.

“This is a transitional period,” Canada said. “Things are happening, as you guys know because you’re reporting it, day-by-day-by-day. Our entire strength staff is doing a great job. Mason [Baggett, Maryland’s assistant strength and conditioning coach] is taking over right now.”

“I am an interim coach, so those decisions and all those things, we are just moving forward. They’ve done a great job, and obviously during camp the lifting schedule in camp is not as much as it would be in the offseason.

“Our medical staff, we’re pulling ‘em from all parts of our department, outside our department, we’re making sure that everything is taken care of and we’ve got a great staff. Players feel good about it. My job [was] not necessarily to do that prior to this, now it is. I’m involved, I’m checking all the reports and we’re all doing well.”

Canda has talked to Durkin, but declined to offer much more than that.

“I’ve called Coach Durkin to talk to him and support him in a situation that’s really challenging, and that’s as far as I’m gonna go with that.”

Maryland is meeting with parents of players on Saturday.

This had been previously reported, but Canada confirmed he and Damon Evans would talk to the parents of players on Saturday after the team scrimmages.

“Everybody’s concerns right now are very wide-ranging,” Canada said. “Our parents and our players want to have a good football season.

“I briefly addressed the football team and told them this is a challenging situation, we’re in this together, we’ll do this together.”

Canada said Maryland’s culture right now is ‘awesome.’

“Our culture right now is great. Our culture right now is awesome, our kids are excited to practice, excited to play. Our kids are loving each other. At times are we grieving for Jordan? We are. But our culture right now is really, really good, and our staff is working to continue to make it better.”

Canada is entering his first season at Maryland. He joined the team’s coaching staff in January after one-year stints at LSU and Pitt. The Indiana grad had the No. 4 offense in the country while at Pitt in 2016, and Ed Orgeron centered in on Canada as his No. 1 target to be LSU’s OC.

Matt Canada’s offenses, by S&P+

Year Team Off. S&P+ rank
Year Team Off. S&P+ rank
2017 LSU 42
2016 Pitt 4
2015 NC State 35
2014 NC State 40
2013 NC State 90
2012 Wisconsin 25
2011 NIU 21
2010 Indiana 67
2009 Indiana 67
2008 Indiana 71
2007 Indiana 51

It didn’t go well in Baton Rouge, though, with reports of a power struggle over the offense between Coach O and Canada precipitating Canada’s eventual parting of ways with LSU.

Canada’s addition was necessary after Walt Bell, who joined Maryland’s staff as offensive coordinator when Durkin was hired in 2015, left for the same position on Willie Taggart’s staff at Florida State.