DJ Durkin may have missed out on two of Maryland's biggest recruits in the class of 2016, but keeping the top talent in the DMV is still his main mission.
"It's priority No. 1, and it's something we talk about every day in this building," he said Wednesday at his National Signing Day press conference.
When Dwayne Haskins and Keandre Jones flipped to Ohio State in January, it left Maryland without two of its highest-impact local recruits in years. Still, the Terps' new head coach was able to secure pledges from two of the area's highest-regarded remaing recruits in the two months he had to hit the trail: Four-star guards Terrance Davis and Richard Merritt were recruited by almost every major program in the country, but elected to stay home and go to Maryland.
"It's huge. That's our No. 1 thing," Durkin said. "We're going to build this program around guys in our own backyard in the DMV. It's interesting, because everyone has such great pride from being in this area, everyone has a tremendous amount of pride [in] the depth of talent in this area, and it's true, and I think people feel a little bit under-respected on national terms."
Durkin's first class at Maryland ended up the 42nd-best in the country after Signing Day, per 247Sports' team rankings, but this class did make a huge breakthrough at DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyattsville. Maryland hadn't previously been able to keep recruits from the school in-state even though it's located just 15 minutes from campus.
"It's been some time since there's been a DeMatha player in this program," Durkin said. "I can tell you one thing: We're going back there next year, too. We're going to try to stake claim there as much as we can.
"With Terrance Davis and Tino Ellis, D.J. Turner and Lorenzo Harrison, those are all guys that are top-notch football players who could have went to other places, but we kept right here at home, and they're going to contribute, probably early, for us," he said. "They're going to have that opportunity."
Still, the Terps missed out on DeMatha defensive end Shane Simmons, who committed to Penn State back in July 2014. That's obviously out of Durkin's control, but Simmons is the type of player Maryland will hope to keep in-state. He's close to campus and wasn't only pining for the SEC. With Penn State currently entering a period of relative turmoil, the Terps could have the upper hand on one of their chief local recruiting rivals.
Another player he didn't keep in the DMV was St. John's College High School defensive end Terrell Hall. The D.C. product had Maryland in his top four, but chose a Crimson Tide hat over a Maryland cleat at his announcement on National Signing Day.
"When he went to Maryland, that really opened my eyes to Maryland," Hall said after choosing Alabama over Maryland, according to The Baltimore Sun. "Like, OK, Maryland might be the school for me. Not even that Maryland might be the school for me, but I just know I'd be comfortable there."
However, it appears damage done by the previous staff was too much for Durkin to overcome. The new coach "knows how to sell the program," Hall told the Sun. But the team's past coaches "didn't sell the program the right way."
Even though he mined Florida for a bunch of recruits as Signing Day got closer and closer, Durkin has to know that he can't have eight of the top 10 recruits in the state of Maryland passing the Terps over. The work to accomplish that won't be easy, as he first has to help the program recover from a disastrous 3-9 finish in 2015.
"I think it's our job to build a program and put a product on the field that guys can be proud of," he said. "And all those guys from here will want to come play on the hometown team. That's what's going to get this thing on the map the right way and give us the credit we deserve in this area."