Durkin Stacking His Staff
In just his first week as Maryland’s head football coach, DJ Durkin has made quite the splash in hiring his staff. Over the course of the past few days, he has hired three coaches to help lead his defense. Every one of these hires has been met with resounding approval by players, recruits, and fans alike. If there was any doubt in anyone’s mind about the Terrapins’ hire of Durkin before this week, there isn’t anymore.
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Scott Shafer – Defensive Coordinator
Previous Position: Head Coach – Syracuse (2013-2015)
Head Coaching Record: 14-23
Resume: Head Coach – Syracuse (2013-2015)
Defensive Coordinator – Syracuse (2012, 2009-2010)
Defensive Coordinator/Defensive Backs Coach – Syracuse (2011)
Defensive Coordinator – Michigan (2008)
Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator – Stanford (2007)
Defensive Coordinator – Western Michigan (2005-2006)
Defensive Backs Coach – Illinois (2004)
Defensive Coordinator – Northern Illinois (2000-2003)
Defensive Backs Coach – Northern Illinois (1996-1999)
Defensive Backs Coach – Rhode Island (1993-1995)
Graduate Assistant – Indiana (1991-1992)
Playing Career: Quarterback (Ohio, Baldwin-Wallace)
For a defensive-minded head coach like Durkin, one of the most important hires he would make is his defensive coordinator. Shafer has an impressive resume, with 12 years of experience as a defensive coordinator, and 3 years of experience as a head coach. He also has 4 years of experience in the Big Ten Conference at Michigan, Illinois, and Indiana. The majority of his coaching experience has come in the Midwest, a very important recruiting region for a Big Ten program. While he was not very successful in his first and only head coaching venture, he is very well-respected as a defensive coach.
As the Orange’s head coach, Shafer worked with defensive coordinator Chuck Bullough to run a very multiple and diverse defensive scheme. This scheme was very similar to the one preferred by Durkin, which makes him a natural fit in College Park. His defensive philosophy doesn’t hinge on scheme, however, it hinges on attitude. Shafer has shown versatility in altering schemes to fit the players that he has, but always wants them playing with an aggressive, attacking attitude.
Recruiting at Syracuse is very difficult, as the surrounding region isn’t exactly a hotbed for collegiate football talent. Shafer’s 2016 class boasted no recruits ranked higher than 3-stars, and none from the DMV area. Therefore, it would appear unlikely that he would bring any recruits with him to College Park. All members of his current class have expressed no desire to leave, and seem committed to new head coach Dino Babers and his staff.
Mike London – Associate Head Coach/Defensive Line Coach
Previous Position: Head Coach – Virginia (2010-2015)
Head Coaching Record: 51-50
Resume: Head Coach – Virginia (2010-2015)
Head Coach – Richmond (2008-2009)
Defensive Coordinator/Defensive Line Coach – Virginia (2006-2007)
Defensive Line Coach – Houston Texans (2005)
Recruiting Coordinator/Defensive Line Coach – Virginia (2002-2004)
Defensive Line Coach – Virginia (2001)
Defensive Line Coach – Boston College (1997-2000)
Recruiting Coordinator/Outside Linebackers Coach – Richmond (1995-1996)
Defensive Line Coach – William & Mary (1991-1994)
Outside Linebackers Coach – Richmond (1989-1990)
Playing Career: Defensive Back (Richmond; Dallas Cowboys)
London is the most recent hire to Durkin’s staff, one that caused quite the stir late last night. His resume is also very impressive, with 8 years of experience as a head coach. He also has 15 years of experience in the position that he will take with the Terrapins, coaching the team’s defensive line. He has a year of NFL experience as well, serving as the Houston Texans’ defensive line coach in 2005 under then-head coach Dom Capers. Like Shafer, he has a spotty record as a head coach, but is well-regarded as both a defensive coach and as a recruiter.
During the first 3 years of his tenure with Virginia, London had Jim Reid running his defense. For the past 3 years, Jon Tenuta has been in that position. The Cavaliers’ defense has been one of the best in the country over the past few years, due both to excellent coaching and stellar recruiting. Their defensive line has been especially good, led by star defensive end and current San Francisco 49ers outside linebacker Eli Harold. London is well-known for his energy and magnetic personality, and like Shafer, has a very aggressive defensive philosophy.
However, not only is London a talented defensive coach, he is also one of the best recruiters in the state of Virginia. He has 5 years of experience as a recruiting coordinator in the state, and for good reason. 2014 was a monster year for recruiting at Virginia, as the Cavaliers snagged 4 players who were the best at their position in the country, according to 247Sports (Pro-Style QB, OG, DT, S). While London’s 2016 class doesn’t yet have any standouts, he may be able to sway some of the recruits that he was targeting to join him in College Park. The most likely candidates would be 4-star offensive line recruits Jauan Williams and Richard Merritt, teammates at Archbishop Carroll High School in Washington, DC. Alabama is thought to be the favorite for both of their commitment, but London’s presence combined with new defensive backs coach Aazaar Abdul-Rahim may just sway them Maryland’s way. Durkin’s hire of London may allow the Terrapins to break into the Tidewater, VA area, a hotbed for collegiate football talent.
Aazaar Abdul-Rahim – Defensive Backs Coach
Previous Position: Assistant Director of Player Personnel – Alabama (2015)
Head Coaching Record: 0-0
Resume: Associate Director of Player Personnel – Alabama (2015)
Football Analyst – Alabama (2014)
Playing Career: Defensive Back (San Diego State)
Abdul-Rahim was Durkin’s first staff hire, and it’s a big one. While he has no experience as a collegiate coach, he does boast 2 years of experience on Nick Saban’s staff at Alabama. Most of his experience comes as the head coach of Friendship Collegiate Academy, the high school powerhouse in nearby Washington, DC. He founded the charter school’s football program in 2004, and amassed an impressive 62-39 record over the course of 10 seasons with the team. He helped to send nearly 100 players to college on football scholarships, including former Maryland defensive end/outside linebacker Yannick Ngakoue, who recently announced he’d be leaving school early for the NFL Draft.
Abdul-Rahim’s value comes as a recruiter. As a former high school coach in the area for such a long period of time, he has extremely valuable relationships in the DMV. In his first year recruiting for the Crimson Tide, he helped to bring 4-star offensive guard Richie Petitbon to Tuscaloosa, a native of Washington, DC. In his second year, he helped to bring 4-star athlete Trevon Diggs on board, a native of Bethesda, MD. Diggs is the brother of former Maryland star wide receiver Stefon Diggs, and was originally thought to be a lock for the Terrapins. Abdul-Rahim may be just the push he needs to cut ties with Alabama and come home to College Park. Along with the previously mentioned offensive linemen Williams and Merritt, the Crimson Tide are also heavily targeting Terrell Hall, a 4-star defensive end from Washington, DC. He is strongly protected to commit to Alabama, but is a player who Abdul-Rahim could potentially bring with him to College Park.