D.J. Durkin works with Mike McCray II
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Michigan defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin has been rumored as a potential head coach at Maryland. He interviewed for the job earlier this week. It seems clear that Maryland is not going to be able to lure a big-time coach with experience as a head man, because they are a lower-tier team in the Big Ten that has an uphill battle to become relevant. They need to get a young guy who’s trying to move up a rung.
This would be a decent move for Durkin. Maryland is a stepping-stone job for a young coach or a fallback option for a decently established coach. If he goes to Maryland and makes them relevant (let’s say a couple 8-4 seasons), then he could parlay that into a bigger job. He’s unlikely to get a big-time job unless he a) has success at a smaller program as a head coach or b) coordinates top-tier defenses for a long time. He’s on his way to reaching the latter achievement, but he’s not there yet.
There have also been rumors that Durkin could take some of Michigan’s assistants with him, such as Jedd Fisch to be his offensive coordinator. These are minor concerns to me. Fisch might be out after the season, anyway, because he was on a one-year contract at Michigan; the Jacksonville Jaguars were paying a large part of his salary after they fired him last year. The Wolverines also have a capable replacement in-house with Erik Campbell, who was brought in last off-season as part of the support staff, but has a long history of wide receiver coaching success with Michigan and Iowa. Add in Jim Harbaugh’s extensive NFL and college experience, and he can probably pull in a good defensive coordinator from several places.
The most immediate concern is in the area of recruiting. Durkin is the linebackers coach and defensive coordinator, and Michigan needs multiple linebackers in this class. It is a thin position group on the field with few established contributors. Michigan has several 2016 linebackers who are high on the Wolverines, but those relationships could be damaged if Durkin goes elsewhere. However, if Michigan brings in a solid defensive coordinator to replace Durkin, the trump card for the Wolverines should be Jim Harbaugh, not whoever’s coaching the linebackers.
If Durkin does indeed leave Michigan, then I do not expect it to hurt Michigan much down the road. Elite programs suffer attrition from the coaching staff, and when someone like Harbaugh puts together an all-star staff, he realizes that those guys will be highly sought after.