Maryland football coach DJ Durkin spoke on Monday at Big Ten media day, offering insight into the upcoming season.
After leading the Terps to a bowl game in his first season in College Park, Durkin faces a daunting 2017 road schedule that includes visits to Texas, Ohio State, Wisconsin and Michigan State.
But with positive off-field news surrounding the program’s new practice facility and recruiting breakthroughs, Durkin maintained an optimistic outlook on his team’s future.
Here are three things to note from his press conference.
1. Practices will begin at Cole Field House next week
The process of converting Cole Field House from a retired basketball arena and intramural sports hub to a football practice facility started in 2014, when Maryland announced the $155 million renovation. The job is almost complete. Next week, the Terps will practice in the former home of hoops legends such as Lefty Driesell, Durkin said.
Durkin praised the facility and lauded university president Wallace Loh and athletics director Kevin Anderson for supporting the project.
“It’s tremendous,” Durkin said. “A state of the art, one-of-a-kind type facility.”
2. Durkin admits Texas is a more important season opener than Howard
With all due respect to the FCS Howard Bison, Maryland’s first game of 2017 poses a greater challenge than its 2016 opener.
Unlike in 2016, when the Terps demolished Howard, 52-13, at home, they must travel to Texas on Sept. 2 for a difficult start to the campaign.
Facing a traditional powerhouse like Texas is something the players haven’t taken lightly, and Durkin said the test could intensify Maryland’s early season focus in a way the Howard matchup did not allow.
“Our players have a great understanding of the tradition, the level of talent on the roster at Texas,” Durkin said. “You gotta be ready week one, there’s no easing into the season.”
3. Maryland’s recruiting success was a popular topic
Maryland’s 2017 recruiting class was pretty darn good. After ranking No. 47 in 2015 and No. 41 in 2016, the 2017 class shot up to No. 18 in the country, according to 247Sports.
The Terps’ 2018 class is currently listed at No. 19 in the nation, a sign Durkin’s recruiting success could last. The coach’s progress on the recruiting trail was understandably a focus at media day.
Durkin credited the appeal of a newly renovated Cole Field House, the university’s academics and the school’s proximity to Washington, D.C., for attracting high-level talent. He also highlighted the value of having local football talent to draw from.
“Right in the our backyard, within a three-hour radius of our campus, is some of the best talent, best players in the entire country,” Durkin said. “So when you have those guys there, we can get them on campus frequently.”