College Park, Md. — DJ Durkin spent his first spring at Maryland trying to install a culture that stresses competition, high energy and an unyielding desire to win.
“It’s everywhere,” linebacker Jermaine Carter Jr. said. “The other day we had breakfast at 5 in the morning, and you had to do a tug of war before you could eat.”
Durkin was hired in December to revive a program that went 3-9 last season. He was Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh’s defensive coordinator last season.
Durkin’s first extended bonding session with the team occurred over the past five weeks, during which he installed a new, up-tempo offense and a decidedly bold attitude.
“The biggest thing for me coming in was to set the tone of what we’re going to have around here, how we’re going to do things,” Durkin said Saturday after the annual Red-White spring game.
The message, delivered time and time again, has been received.
“There’s a lot of competition on the team. That’s what the coaches keep preaching to us,” quarterback Perry Hills said. “We compete in every single thing we do — whether it’s in the weight room, the classroom, everything. It really brings the best out of everyone.”
Durkin was hired by Maryland because of his ability to put together a sound defense and recruit. Although Michigan’s defense flourished last season, it appeared Saturday that plenty of attention was spent this spring on the manner in which the Terrapins move the football.
Maryland unveiled a frenzied attack Saturday that ran dozens of plays and produced five long touchdowns. Hills, Caleb Rowe and Gage Shaffer tossed the ball all over the field, taking absolutely no time to huddle between plays.
“It’s a very fun offense, something you want to be a part of,” Rowe said. “Everyone’s expected to play at such a high level.”
Rowe and Hills were both starters last season, and at this point there’s no telling who will get the call in the Sept. 3 opener against Howard.
“We’re going to keep that competition going into August,” Durkin said. “Caleb and Perry are both doing a great job. They both made improvements throughout the spring.”
Hills’ strength is in his ability to run, a facet of his game that was not in play during a scrimmage that forbid hitting the quarterback. Hills went 14-for-25 for 102 yards and a touchdown; Rowe was 7-for-16 for 161 yards and two scores.
Numbers, to be sure, that are completely meaningless.
“We asked a lot of our guys this spring,” Durkin said. “I put it on them hard, so today was about having fun.”
After drilling the players over 14 practices, Durkin took his foot off the accelerator on the final day before they meet again this summer.
Both sides are working toward a common goal: To make Maryland relevant in the Big Ten. To this point, Durkin and his players have learned much from each other.
“The best thing I can say about our team is they’re very coachable,” Durkin said. “We’ve been very demanding on these guys, and there hasn’t been any pushback. They want to be good, they want to win. They want to do what we’re asking them to do. You can’t ask for anything more as a coach.”
Rowe, a 6-foot-3 senior, has been throwing for the Terps since 2012. He’s never experienced anything like this.
“Everything is different, from the top to the bottom — from coach Durkin to our strength and training staff,” he said. “Everything is done for a reason and with a purpose. The expectation level is so high, and everyone is trying to meet that. It’s a fun culture to be a part of.”