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Durkin launches new era of Maryland football

D.J. Durkin speaks at a news conference after being introduced as the new head football coach at the University of Maryland, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2015, in College Park, Md. Durkin comes from the University of Michigan, where he was the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — A new era begins for Maryland football.

The university introduced D.J. Durkin as the head coach Thursday, more than a month after Randy Edsall was fired from the post.

Athletic director Kevin Anderson described the qualities he was looking for in a new coach: “A strong and dynamic leader with a great energy for our program. An innovative football mind … and a great personality.”

That search yielded Durkin, who was the defensive coordinator at Michigan this season.

Despite a recent history of being an assistant at major programs at Michigan, Florida and Stanford, Durkin’s roots are in the Mid-American Conference where he played at Bowling Green.

MAC schools, year in and year out, are outgunned on the recruiting road and outmanned on the field by the Big Ten heavyweights — allowing the Terps’ new coach an intriguing perspective as he competes in the always-tough Big Ten East.

“Personally I really identify with this program — this is a blue collar place and a blue collar university. I think we compete in one of the best conferences in the country. I want to recruit guys that embrace that competition,” Durkin says.

Durkin started his coaching career as a graduate assistant under Urban Meyer at Bowling Green and then Ty Willingham at Notre Dame.

His big break was landing a job on Jim Harbaugh’s Stanford staff as special teams coordinator/defensive ends coach in 2007. Three years later, he was reunited with Meyer at Florida in a similar role.

He became the Gators’ defensive coordinator in 2013, which didn’t escape the notice of Anderson.

“D.J.’s been a coordinator of defenses that have been ranked in the top 15 for three years, including Michigan this year. And we were on the bad side of that shutout,” Anderson said.

Let the record show that Durkin will not be lukewarm during his tenure in College Park.

“We will be aggressive in everything we do. Offensively, defensive, special teams, in the classroom and in offseason workouts,” Durkin said.

Against a slate of opponents that was regarded as one of the toughest in the nation this past fall, one can’t afford to go halfway.

“I think you can out effort people on the field and off the field — that’s what I know. I learned those values a long time ago and that’s what we’ll be.”

Already announcing to his team that he will not coach with Michigan for their bowl game, Durkin is all in with his new program. That starts this week with recruiting.

“I think there’s already good talent in the building. And I think right in our backyard is one of the richest talent areas in the country. I think we have to do a great job of recruiting and keep those guys close to home.”

Keeping players in the area will be important, but also important is the status of former interim coach Mike Locksley. Will the ex-offensive coordinator who many regard as a recruiting wizard in the DMV be retained? Nothing has been settled as of yet.

The university president, athletic director and longtime announcer each gushed with enthusiasm over their newest hire.

The work begins now for Durkin and his staff as they begin the task of rebuilding a program that’s gone 23-39 during the last five years. The first home game with Howard is only 10 months away.

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