To­day, the Terps will face the coach they didn’t hire

UCF’s Frost was ru­mored as fa­vorite for job Durkin holds

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - By Don Markus

As the ru­mors swirled early last sea­son about the un­cer­tain fu­ture of Mary­land foot­ball coach Randy Ed­sall, the name of one pos­si­ble suc­ces­sor seemed to be men­tioned as much as any other. It wasn’t DJ Durkin, then in his first year as de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor at Michi­gan.

It was Scott Frost, the third-year of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor and quar­ter­backs coach at Ore­gon.

Even af­ter Ed­sall was fired at mid­sea­son, Frost was be­lieved to be high on the list of those thought to have a chance of com­ing to Col­lege Park. And Durkin? De­spite a 28-0 shutout by the Wolver­ines at Mary­land Sta­dium, he didn’t even seem to be an af­ter­thought.

As Mary­land and Cen­tral Florida meet tonight at Bright House Net­works Sta­dium in Or­lando, Durkin is 2-0 as head coach of

the Terps, and Frost is 1-1 as head coach of the Knights.

They are among the 28 new head coaches in the Foot­ball Bowl Sub­di­vi­sion, more than half of them first-timers on the col­lege level who pre­vi­ously served as co­or­di­na­tors or po­si­tion coaches on the col­lege level or in the NFL.

ESPN col­lege foot­ball an­a­lyst Mike Bel­lotti, who hired Frost on his staff at Ore­gon af­ter the 2008 sea­son as he was turn­ing the head coach­ing job over to Chip Kelly, said this week that ath­letic di­rec­tors shouldn’t al­ways look at hir­ing a new coach fans might know or one with pre­vi­ous head-coach­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

“I never wor­ried about na­tional pro­file; I wor­ried about re­sults on the field — can they mo­ti­vate peo­ple and [put to­gether] a coach­ing staff?” Bel­lotti said. “The ques­tion I would have [is]: If you have a co­or­di­na­tor who’s only been on one side of the ball … can he be the voice of your pro­gram?”

Durkin, 38, has never tried to make Mary­land fans be­lieve he was more than a coach whose back­ground was in coach­ing de­fense and spe­cial teams, or that he was go­ing to use the blue­print that worked when he was on Ur­ban Meyer’s staff at Florida and Jim Har­baugh’s at Stan­ford and Michi­gan.

“You can’t just take the road map of Pro­gram A and ap­ply it to Pro­gram B and just say ‘It worked there, it’s go­ing to work here,’ ” Durkin said at Mary­land’s Me­dia Day. “It doesn’t work that way. There’s unique and dy­namic cir­cum­stances to ev­ery place, and that’s what we’re fig­ur­ing out and work­ing through here at Mary­land, and what I do know about our place, we do have ev­ery­thing there and do have the ca­pa­bil­ity to make our pro­gram a con­sis­tent and big win­ner.”

Mary­land ath­letic di­rec­tor Kevin An­der­son said Durkin’s his­tory in coach­ing only de­fense and spe­cial teams didn’t con­cern him then — and doesn’t now.

“All I can say is that we’ve scored 93 points the first two games, we haven’t turned the ball over, we’ve put [quar­ter­back Perry Hills] in a good po­si­tion,” An­der­son said Thurs­day. “All I can say is that since DJ’s been here, I’ve been very im­pressed with our player devel­op­ment.”

An­der­son said Durkin stressed dur­ing his in­ter­views that he knew ex­actly how he wanted his team to play of­fen­sively.

“The phi­los­o­phy he talked to me about was that we were go­ing to play fast, we were go­ing to play downhill, we’re go­ing to put peo­ple in the best po­si­tion and we’re go­ing to hire a good of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor, and he’s done all that,” An­der­son said.

Durkin said be­fore the sea­son started that he would “def­i­nitely have more of a fin­ger­print on the de­fense be­cause that’s ob­vi­ously my back­ground — that’s what I know. Not to say I won’t be in­volved in the of­fense. I’ve done spe­cial teams and de­fense for a long time, and those two ar­eas I have more direct in­volve­ment with.”

Cen­tral Florida ath­letic di­rec­tor Danny White knew that Frost, a quar­ter­back at Ne­braska and a de­fen­sive back in a short ca­reer in the NFL, had served as code­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor at North­ern Iowa be­fore go­ing to Ore­gon as wide re­ceivers coach.

“He’s got a re­ally unique back­ground in foot­ball. I don’t think there’s an­other coach in the coun­try who’s been a de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor and an of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor,” White said Thurs­day.

“The way he talked about his story re­ally made me un­der­stand how much of a ben­e­fit that is.”

But Frost’s big­gest plus was what he had done as of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor at Ore­gon, where he took over when cur­rent Ducks coach Mark Hel­frich was pro­moted to head coach af­ter Kelly’s de­par­ture to the NFL.

Us­ing a search firm in At­lanta, White started look­ing a day af­ter he was hired in mid-Novem­ber.

Frost was the only as­sis­tant coach White in­ter­viewed for the job va­cated when Ge­orge O’Leary re­signed — first as ath­letic di­rec­tor, then as coach — as the Knights were in the midst of an 0-12 sea­son.

Frost, 41, was hired Dec. 1, the day be­fore Durkin was in­tro­duced in Col­lege Park.

“Head coach­ing is re­ally im­por­tant, but for us, I think we got the best of­fen­sive mind — at least the last few years — in the game and some­one who can bring a pro­lific, ex­cit­ing of­fense to the state of Florida, where we have so much tal­ent at the prep level,” White said. “We’re ex­cited to see what this sys­tem can do the next few years in the state of Florida.”

Bel­lotti said pick­ing the right job can make a dif­fer­ence to a first-time head coach.

“You want to go some­where where you can change the land­scape in a pos­i­tive way. Hope­fully, the sky’s the limit, we’re only go­ing to go up from here,” Bel­lotti said. “You don’t want to go where it’s a strug­gle to win, where you don’t have the re­sources or the re­cruit­ing ad­van­tages.”

Bel­lotti said that when he saw Frost dur­ing a visit to ESPN head­quar­ters this sum­mer, the coach seemed ex­cited about the pos­si­bil­i­ties of build­ing Cen­tral Florida into a bur­geon­ing power, as the Knights were briefly when they rose to No. 10 in the coun­try in 2013 af­ter beat­ing Bay­lor in the Fi­esta Bowl.

Bel­lotti said he doesn’t know much about Durkin but re­called talk­ing to Ed­sall the day be­fore the game against Bowl­ing Green in Col­lege Park last fall. Bel­lotti was in the broad­cast booth as the Terps gave up four fourth-quar­ter touch­downs and lost, 48-27.

“They were hav­ing quar­ter­back is­sues, and they were talk­ing about, ‘When we build the fa­cil­i­ties, we’ll be able to re­cruit any­body,’ ” Bel­lotti said.

“I think that was a big plan, but they never had that chance.”

Within a month, An­der­son be­gan his coach­ing search in earnest.

While Ge­or­gia’s Mark Richt (who went to Mi­ami) and for­mer Mary­land quar­ter­back Frank Re­ich, then the of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor of the San Diego Charg­ers, were both floated, An­der­son kept go­ing back to the rel­a­tively un­known as­sis­tant at Michi­gan.

“Ev­ery­thing I dis­cussed, I re­searched, and in shar­ing with peo­ple that I re­spected in the busi­ness, it pointed and directed me to Durkin,” An­der­son said. “He was high on my list from the very begin­ning. When I sat down with him and talked with him on a num­ber of oc­ca­sions, he be­came clearly the front-run­ner.”

ROB FOLDY/GETTY IM­AGES

Mary­land ath­letic di­rec­tor Kevin An­der­son says he re­mains un­con­cerned that new Terps head coach DJ Durkin, above, had coached only de­fense and spe­cial teams.

TONY DING/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Scott Frost was in his third year as of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor and quar­ter­backs coach at Ore­gon when Cen­tral Florida came call­ing. He was hired as head coach there Dec. 1.

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