Preview 2017: The Wins Are Coming At Maryland … Soon
D.J. Durkin is changing the culture at Maryland, and the wins will soon follow.
So how do you change around a football culture?
Places like Penn State and Baylor might have to change around the culture in a different sort of way, but what about at a program like Maryland that’s simply trying to generate more interest?
The school has a decent football history – it won the 1953 national title and went 10-0 with a Sugar Bowl win in 1951 – but it’s known as an ACC basketball school that’s now trying to navigate its way through one of the most brutal divisions in college football.
It’s hard for that culture to change when you’re getting your brains beaten in by some of the Big Ten big boys, but since switching leagues, the Terps have a win over Michigan and Penn State in 2014, it beat Michigan State last season, and it’s gone to two bowl games in its three years.
It’s not like Maryland is starting from Ground Zero, but the easiest way to change the culture and make it stick? Win on a consistent basis.
Second-year head coach D.J. Durkin has the intensity, the youth, and the energy to make this happen. Just 39, he was a rising superstar defensive assistant through the ranks at Florida and then for one year at Michigan, and now at Maryland, he gets it. He knows what needs to happen.
He’s been honest from the start about what the program needs to compete in the brutal Big Ten East, and he’s getting there.
First and foremost, it comes down to talent. He’s already succeeding at building a fence around the Baltimore/Washington D.C./Northern Virginia area – at least as much as possible – doing a strong job of keeping a slew of the local stars closer to home. The idea of building something seems to be resonating.
Do that, and the recruiting classes start to look terrific, like the amazing haul he came up with in his 2017 class. In the past, the local guys would at least look at Maryland on the way to Columbus, Ann Arbor, State College, or Blacksburg, but now, more and more are starting to stick.
Second, wait it out until there’s experience to go along with the young talent. Durkin fought through the pains of the first season and still managed to take the team bowling. If this whole thing is working like it’s supposed to, the turn should start to be sharper in Year Two.
There needs to be more happening in the secondary, on the offensive line, and with a quarterback situation that never seems to be settled. The turnover margin has to finally be better, the points have to start coming on a regular basis – and not just against the cupcakes – and there simply has to be more wins.
Get a little momentum by beating a few of the decent Big Ten teams, make going bowling a given, and the culture might slowly start to change in the right away.
This year’s team has pop and explosion among the running backs, but the veteran line has to be stronger, especially in pass protection. More receiving weapons have to emerge and a No. 1, this-is-the-dude quarterback option has to rise up.
Durkin’s forte is defense, and while he was able to get his group into the backfield and to the quarterback, it got ripped apart far too often. Fortunately, he has a fantastic linebacking corps returning, a decent line, and defensive backs who can hit, but have to start picking off more passes.
Will the blend of talents be enough to shock the world and make a run in the East? It’s not insane considering Michigan loses everyone and Penn State has to come to Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium, but that’s not going to happen this season.
It’ll still take a little while for Maryland to be a true player, but Durkin appears to be the right man at the right spot. The wins will come, and when they do, so will the culture that’s fired up about Maryland football.