It's possible that no first-time head coach in college football history has compiled a more impressive resume -- especially by age 38 -- as new Maryland head man D.J. Durkin.
After completing his career as a Bowling Green defensive end and outside linebacker, Durkin helped launch Urban Meyer's head coaching career as a Falcons graduate assistant, then witnessed the final days of the failed Tyrone Willingham era at Notre Dame. Durkin returned to his alma mater for his first full-time job under Gregg Brandon, then joined Jim Harbaugh's original staff at Stanford. He left Palo Alto for Gainesville as an original member on Will Muschamp's staff at Florida, staying on through the high of an 11-2 season in 2012 through the lows of the 10-13 record that followed. Durkin then reconnected with Harbaugh at Michigan, grabbing a front row seat to the cyclone that enchanted college football.
If it's not the most impressive resume, it's perhaps the most eclectic. Durkin has seen what works, and he's seen what hasn't.
And in his original Terrapins staff, Durkin surrounded himself with assistants more experienced than he.
"It was important to me to hire guys that shared the same beliefs and core values in coaching," Durkin said in an appearance on the ESPN Championship Drive podcast Wednesday. "There's reasons people are involved in the professions they're in; some are good and some are bad reasons. I wanted to make sure I was surrounding our program with guys that are in it for the right reasons and wanting to build positive relationships and have positive impacts with young men. That was really, really big for me."
While former Virginia head coach Mike London (now Durkin's assistant head coach/defensive line coach) and former Syracuse head coach Scott Shafer (now Durkin's defensive coordinator) happened to be a bit of fortuitous timing for him, Durkin shocked many in the industry by pulling Ball State head coach Pete Lembo to serve as his assistant head coach, special teams coordinator and tight ends coach.
"It just so happened that it worked out with that many former head coaches but I wanted to make sure I hired guys that weren't just 'Yes, sir' guys," Durkin said. "I like having different opinions on things and guys that aren't afraid to speak up. It's a healthy way to do things. If you look at our staff from top to bottom, it's made up of guys that are quality people, men with a purpose, have good experiences in our profession and do things the right way."
While Durkin will definitely draw on what he learned from Meyer and Harbaugh (and Willingham and Muschamp) -- "You take bits and pieces from each of them and see what fits with your own personality and way of doing things and you incorporate those where needed" -- he's also seen enough to know that just because something works in Columbus, Palo Alto or Ann Arbor that he'll try to turn Maryland into an amalgam of Harbaugh-and-Meyer Lite.
"Every program has a formula of the way things need to be done to be successful," Durkin said. "There's not direct carryover with those formulas. Doing things one way at one place might be great, but you may go another place and fall flat on your face. I think a huge part of coaching is figuring out that formula. "