Maryland coach DJ Durkin couldn’t stop smiling when he reached the podium in the Gossett Football Team House’s Glazer Auditorium on Wednesday afternoon.
“How ya’ll doing?” Durkin asked reporters. “I’m doing great. It’s hard to wipe the smile off my face right now.”
At that same podium, Durkin displayed a mixture of frustration and joy throughout his first season as Maryland’s head coach. But there was no reason to pout Wednesday.
Durkin was addressing the Terps’ best recruiting class ever, a feat Durkin envisioned when he took over as head coach in December and accomplished a little more than one year later. He couldn’t contain his enthusiasm, rambling for nearly six minutes about the group before fielding questions from reporters.
“I can’t tell you how excited we are and what a tremendous day this is for all of us,” Durkin said. “The future is really, really bright.”
Maryland’s class of 29 recruits ranks 16th in the country on Rivals.com and 18th on 247Sports.com, the best marks ever for the Terps on both sites.
A few years ago, players began the “DMV-to-UMD” movement, which calls upon recruits from Washington, Maryland and Virginia to come to College Park. The movement wasn’t very successful at first, as many recruits from the area still signed with traditionally strong programs, such as Penn State, Alabama and Ohio State.
In this case, Durkin took advantage of this area’s wide range of talent. He signed 17 recruits, including seven four-star recruits, from the region.
“Our formula is we’re going to take care of our backyard,” Durkin said. “We’re going to win here in the DMV and build our team with that being our foundation. There’s no secret about it.”
The Terps also signed recruits from 10 states. They signed four from Georgia, which located at the center of the SEC, one of college football’s strongest conferences.
Durkin said his coaching staff reached out to recruits from the South early on and stayed in touch with them throughout their recruitment process, not shying away when SEC coaches approached them.
“These guys we just signed had a lot of options,” Durkin said. “You don’t get ranked that high with guys who are limited in their options. There’s a bunch of guys who had opportunities to play at a lot of places in the country, and they made a decision to come here and be a part of something special we’re building. That’s the most impressive thing to me and the most exciting thing for me.”
Four-star quarterback Kasim Hill, who had offers from Michigan and Penn State, among others, played at St. John’s College High School in Washington and signed with the Terps in April. Durkin said he was a catalyst in convincing others to commit to the Terps.
It’s hard to find a consistent signal caller in college football, which has been apparent at Maryland the past few years. The Terps have rotated between quarterbacks for the past five seasons, but Durkin said Hill’s leadership separates him.
“He’s a freak of nature,” Durkin said. “Anyone who follows football can turn on tape and know he’s a tremendous talent. That doesn’t scratch the surface on what Kasim is all about. He’s going to be a household name for all Terps fans.”
Durkin was also focused on bringing in size on the offensive and defensive lines, while improving Maryland’s wide receiver corps.
Guard Marcus Minor, a four-star recruit from DeMatha Catholic High School, should bolster the Terps’ offensive line, while four-star defensive tackles Cam Spence and Breyon Gaddy should do the same on the defensive end. Meanwhile, four-star athlete Markquese Bell, who was one of eight recruits to enroll at Maryland this spring, “looks like a NFL safety.”
And after no Maryland player recorded more than 500 receiving yards last year, the Terps are adding four three-star wide receivers.
“I’ve made the statement to our staff several times, ‘Let’s recruit big guys that are big,'” Durkin said. “Let’s get the big body guys who have big frames and can grow and be huge. I also tell them let’s recruit fast guys. Let’s get the guys who are really fast and separate themselves on tape from others.
“It’s not a complex formula. We need to do that on the line of scrimmage to be who we want to be in this conference.”
Maryland’s running game was its strongest unit last season, with freshman Lorenzo Harrison rushing for 633 yards before he missed the final four games due to suspension, and Ty Johnson leading the team with 1,004 rushing yards. Both players will return this year, and the Terps will boost that group with four running back recruits, including two four-stars.
All-purpose back Anthony McFarland, who played at DeMatha, headlines the group as the No. 2 recruit in Maryland.
“That guy is electric,” Durkin said. “The sky is the limit for him. If you put the ball in his hands, he has a chance every time he has it to go the distance.”
Durkin had about a month to recruit his own players for the 2016 class after replacing former coach Randy Edsall. He said he brought in a smaller class last year so he could offer so many scholarships this season.
This group has raised Maryland’s recruiting expectations in Durkin’s first season. But for him, this is only the beginning.
“We expect to recruit at this level every year,” Durkin said. “There’s not a reason not to. We have a product that’s second to none. This is the level we need to recruit at to do what we want to do, which is to win championships.”