|D.J. Durkin (image via GatorCountry.com)
Durkin is a 36-year-old who went to high school at Boardman (OH) Boardman before becoming a two-year captain at Bowling Green State University, playing defensive end and outside linebacker. After finishing his career in 2000, he joined Urban Meyer's staff as a graduate assistant in 2001-2002. He then spent two years at Notre Dame under Tyrone Willingham (and with Greg Mattison), working as a graduate assistant with the defensive line. His first full-time coaching gig came back at BGSU working with the defensive ends in 2005 and then the linebackers and special teams in 2006. When Jim Harbaugh was hired at Stanford in 2007, Durkin joined him as the defensive ends and special teams coach. The year before Harbaugh left, Durkin headed to Florida to be their defensive ends/special teams coach, where he again worked under Meyer (2010) and then under Will Muschamp. Last season he was promoted to defensive coordinator and became the interim head coach for the Birmingham Bowl this season, which Florida won over East Carolina, 28-20.
As a defensive coordinator, Florida has allowed 21.1 points/game each of the last two years (tied for #19 in 2014, #15 in 2013), and they have been #15 in total defense (329.8 yards/game allowed in 2014) and #8 (314.4 yards/game allowed in 2013). This past year Florida was tied for 44th in sacks (32), tied for 29th in tackles for loss (87), and tied for 15th in interceptions (16). It should be noted that he was working with renowned defensive mind Will Muschamp, but there aren't many better mentors to have. As a defensive coach in general, Durkin has coached up Justin Tuck (Notre Dame/New York Giants), Jelani Jenkins (Florida/Miami Dolphins), and Jon Bostic (Florida/Chicago Bears).
Hit the jump for much more on Durkin's special teams and recruiting accomplishments.
As a special teams coach, Durkin has a good history. Some accomplishments during his tenure:
- Chris Owusu had 3 kickoff returns for touchdowns in 2009, averaging 31.5 yards/return
- Richard Sherman returned 1 punt for a touchdown (2009) and returned a blocked punt for a score (2008)
- Florida returned 2 blocked kicks for touchdowns in 2010
- Andre DeBose returned 2 kickoffs for touchdowns in 2010, averaging 28 yards/return
- Chris Rainey returned 1 punt for a touchdown in 2011, and another blocked punt was returned for a score by linebacker Graham Stewart
- Debose and Jeff Demps each returned 1 touchdown for a score in 2011
- Debose (kickoff) and linebacker Jelani Jenkins (punt) both scored touchdowns on special teams in 2012
- Punter Chas Henry averaged 45.1 yards/punt and won the Ray Guy Award in 2010
- Kicker Caleb Sturgis was a First Team All-American in 2012 and a Second Team All-American in 2011, becoming a 5th round draft pick of the Miami Dolphins in 2013
Overall, when Durkin has been in charge of special teams, his squads have scored 8 kickoff return touchdowns and 7 punt return team touchdowns (including returns on blocked kicks), albeit zero in his first two years as a coordinator in 2006-2007. If we look at that same span of success (2008-2012) at Michigan, the Wolverines totaled 3 punt returns and 1 kickoff return touchdowns. So Durkin's teams scored 15 times, while Rich Rodriguez/Brady Hoke's teams scored 4 times. Additionally, the Cardinal and Gators blocked 22 kicks during that five-year span. If Durkin is indeed the defensive coordinator and a position coach, he will almost certainly not be the team's primary special teams coach, but he would undoubtedly have some input.
As a recruiter, Durkin was named the Rivals Recruiter of the Year in 2012 after reeling in two 5-stars (D.J. Humphries, Jonathan Bullard) and two 4-stars (Brian Poole, Jeremi Powell). He had another successful year in 2013, pulling in four linebackers - 5-star Alex Anzalone, two 4-stars, and a 3-star. His recruiting role seems to have diminished a bit once he was promoted to defensive coordinator at Florida, but he was able to reel in two 4-stars in the 2015 class (linebackers Jerome Baker and Adonis Thomas) before the season went south for the Gators, which led them to flip to Ohio State and Alabama, respectively. Four-star Georgia defensive end/outside linebacker Roquan Smith has said that he would want to check out Michigan if Durkin were hired, and Durkin was also the point man for 5-stars CeCe Jefferson (uncommitted) and Keisean Lucier-South (committed to UCLA but with potential if Jim Mora leaves for the NFL).
Outside of pipe dream hires (Nick Saban! Marvin Lewis! Norman Schwarzkopf!), Durkin seems like one of the best hires Michigan could make. Harbaugh reportedly failed to steal Lance Anderson from Stanford, but Harbaugh/Mattison/Durkin have a history, Durkin worked with some standout coaches (Meyer, Harbaugh, Muschamp), he's an ace recruiter who will be one state away from his hometown stomping grounds, and his special teams acumen is a plus. He's also a young, energetic guy whom the Florida players seemed to like, and he could be an heir to the program if Harbaugh decides to go back to the NFL at some point. One knock on him is that he has yet to produce an absolutely outstanding player. Regardless, it's better to have a good unit than one stud and a bunch of stiffs, and he has been able to do that.