Hello: DJ Durkin, Defensive Coordinator

Submitted by Brian on January 19th, 2015 at 3:54 PM

Previously: Tim Drevno (OC/OL), Ty Wheatley (RBs), Jedd Fisch (WRs), Greg Jackson (DBs), John Baxter (ST).



DJ Durkin's rapid ascension to a coordinator-level spot at the somewhat preposterous age of 34 wasn't surprising to a lot of people who knew him. Durkin jumped into coaching immediately upon completion of his playing career, first as a GA at Bowling Green, his alma mater, under Urban Meyer. He progressed to a steadily more impressive series of stops. Since that GA spot Durkin spent…

  • two years as a grad assistant at Notre Dame under Greg Mattison
  • two years as a BGSU position coach, first DE, then LB
  • three years as Stanford's DE coach under Jim Harbaugh
  • two years as Florida's LB coach, first under Urban Meyer, then retained Will Muschamp
  • two years as Florida's DC

…and now he's at Michigan. Probably for more than two years, but not twenty. Coaching trajectories like that don't often end before the head coach level. Durkin's already been hired by Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaugh (twice), and those guys are head coach gatling guns.

Add in Greg Mattison and Will Muschamp (who knows what he's doing on defense to the tune of a $1.6 million gig at Auburn even after the Florida flameout) and that's a lot of excellent coaches vouching for him.

“Everyone I talked to said he is one of the bright young coaches in college football,” Muschamp said.

This is how quickly he moves up: when Dan Quinn was hired away from Florida to be the Seahawks DC it took all of three hours for Muschamp to promote him.

But until he's got a presser somewhere else, he's here. Michigan's won a defensive version of Jim Harbaugh, which isn't that surprising since his first big break was with him.

It helps Durkin's case he has the energy, intensity and work ethic to match the indefatigable Muschamp. Before he came to Florida in 2010, Durkin was the same way at Stanford with the hyper-intense Jim Harbaugh.

The way he coaches is the way Durkin wants his players to perform.

"We want to play with unbelievable effort and enthusiasm in what we're doing," he said. "That's the way I coach. That's my personality."

Stanford fans were impressed with him as well:

Durkin was always known as an insanely high-energy coach when he was at Stanford, and his special teams units were always well-coached. That intensity definitely carried over to his recruiting abilities, where he helped bring in and develop some of the best players in Stanford history.

I think his star pupil at Stanford was probably Shayne Skov, who became an unstoppable player on special teams his freshman year - he made so many tackles that the coaches basically had no choice but to play him at linebacker. The guy knows what he's talking about and has that same intensity as Harbaugh and Muschamp, so I think he's a perfect fit for the promotion.

And so is Scot Loeffler:

"His enthusiasm is off the charts," said Scot Loeffler, the former Wolverines quarterback and assistant coach who later was a Lions assistant, and who tutored Tim Tebow at Florida, where he worked with Durkin.

"I've known him for five years, and he's remarkably intelligent. He knows the game inside and out, and his toughness and love for the game is remarkable.

"I think he's a great hire for Michigan. He'll bring excitement to the program. He has that great enthusiasm. And I promise you, his defensive unit will be fundamentally sound."

He generally backed that up in his two years as Florida DC, with the caveat that Muschamp was also heavily involved:

2010 Florida N/A 29 28 11 17
2011 Florida LB 33 35 8 112
2012 Florida LB 1 4 4 17
2013 Florida DC 20 15 42 97
2014 Florida DC 5 21 5 11

There's a good measure of how random turnovers are: Florida was great or horrible with nothing in between over the last five years.

Durkin's first year at DC was a miserable 4-8 hole in which the Florida offense died, finishing 97th in FEI—a large part of the decline there was no doubt fatigue and apathy.

Durkin's  position coaching chops are also impressive. At Stanford he was walking into a situation where talent was sparse, but he still had a major impact on their ability on a college level:

"He always found a way," [Ben] Muth recalls. "We really didn't have much speed out there at all at Stanford early on, and he still found a way to put together some really solid special teams groups.

"And we had some good position coaches. Our defensive line coach (Lance Anderson), our offensive line coaches (Chris Dalman, Tim Drevno), David Shaw. All obviously really good. But Durkin, he might've been the best position coach we had."

The year before Durkin got to Stanford with Harbaugh (2006), the Cardinal had 14 sacks as a team. Two years later, Stanford registered 33 sacks.

At Florida he did excellent work with their LBs. Jon Bostic, Jelani Jenkins, and Ronald Powell were drafted, with Bostic going in the second round. OLB/WDE guy Ronald Powell is projected as a top 15 pick in the upcoming draft. Antonio Morrison was a second team all-SEC guy at a mere 218 pounds.

After Muschamp's firing, Durkin was a hot commodity. He was courted by North Carolina and supposedly on the verge of accepting the Texas A&M DC job until Harbaugh stepped in. Those jobs went to Gene Chizik and LSU DC John Chavis, and Durkin was seemingly preferred in both situations. Hell, as late as early December OSU fans on Eleven Warriors were agitating for Durkin to replace Luke Fickell, in part because he almost ripped highly touted OH LB Jerome Baker from their sweaty clutches. Urbtopia has no doubt cooled those calls, but point is dude is desirable.


Durkin should be a major asset. He was named the Rivals recruiter of the year for the 2012 class after swooping into North Carolina and snatching two five stars out of the state; as mentioned above, he has been active in Ohio with recruits that OSU went into the recruiting year believing they had a blood right to. Durkin's hire immediately piqued the interest of several recruits in the south, including Roquan Smith, who visited last weekend.

Durkin's from Youngstown and has four years of experience scouring the south so he'll be a pointman on a lot of major recruitments.


Presser style preview:


Durkin has run both a 3-4 and a 4-3, but let's expand on a topic we briefly touched on during the very last searchbits: there's running a "3-4" and running a 3-4. The scarequotes version kind of has three down lineman plus a "drop end" who often lines up in a two point stance. There's no behemoth Wilforkian nose tackle, and the DL generally attack single gaps. This was what Florida ran most of last year, featuring 6'3", 260-pound Dante Fowler as their WDE/drop-end guy.

That's basically a 4-3 under taken slightly further. When running the under with Greg Mattison, Michigan would blitz SAM Jake Ryan, slant the three guys on the line away from him, and "fold" the end back.


The end result is the same 4-3 defense except the guys are in different spots and the offensive line may get confused, allowing your gap attack to be more effective. Durkin's most recent Florida defense was more explicit about the fact their defense flipped from down to down, but it was similar in philosophy to Michigan. Against FSU it was almost all 4-3 or nickel looks with the standard okie chaos on passing downs.

So I wouldn't expect Michigan's style of defense to change much.

What about the coverage? With Jourdan Lewis coming on and Jabrill Peppers hopefully healthy, Michigan could so some things, and Florida was inclined to do those things:

Florida plays a lot of press technique especially for cornerbacks, an in-your-face physical style of pass defense. The style also involves a shuffle step in lieu of the traditional backpedaling most cornerbacks are taught to do from an early age.

If Michigan does try to go aggressive again the comparison between staffs will be an interesting one.


A couple years to get stablized and get some pass rushing talent in, then some dang good defenses, then he ends up like Pat Narduzzi, waiting for a good opportunity to break into the head coaching ranks.



January 19th, 2015 at 4:12 PM ^

I would like to add to your prediction based on flimsy evidence: "...Like Pat Narduzzi...but without committing PI on every down and daring the refs to be 'that crew' that calls them all."


January 19th, 2015 at 4:49 PM ^

Based on Herman's duration and Ash already being floated as a HC candidate from some reports after 1 year as co-DC with Urban, I think we'll be lucky to keep him for 3 years.  With his exposure to the south, west, and midwest the world is going to be his playing field.


January 19th, 2015 at 5:00 PM ^

Given how he's bounced between Meyer and Harbaugh it's clear that Durkin's next stop will be a return to working with Meyer when he leaves OSU for the NFL.


January 19th, 2015 at 5:30 PM ^

"At Florida he did excellent work with their LBs. Jon Bostic, Jelani Jenkins, and Ronald Powell were drafted, with Bostic going in the second round. OLB/WDE guy Ronald Powell is projected as a top 15 pick in the upcoming draft."


Just FYI, I think you have Ronald Powell confused with Dante Fowler in this section.  Powell was drafted last year and Fowler is the freak of nature Buck/OLB/DE who will be a first round pick in the upcoming draft.   Looks like just a typo because you first refer to Powell as drafted and then reference Fowler later.


January 19th, 2015 at 5:00 PM ^

Just trying to figure out who the ends would be in a "true 3-4" vs "faux 3-4"; Taco would fit as one in either a 3-4 or 4-3 but the other is more troublesome.

Either Glasgow or Henry get benched in this scenario and Glasgow plays the nose tackle per se and I dont see us benching Henry as he should be potentially the best player on the DL.  But his "position" is eliminated in the 3-4.  So Glasgow/Mone (Pipkins) as your interior DL-man.  Taco has the size to be one DE and then I see Mario O and Marshall being an "outside backer" in that scheme.  But the other DE would have to be Henry which doesnt seem like a great fit.   Poggi/Wormley are other choices.

Ross III/Bolden/Morgan/Mario O would make for an interesting LB core - Gedeon would be the primary backup in the middle and then you need to start developing the Gants and McCrays because those are your projected starters in 2016.


January 19th, 2015 at 5:03 PM ^

I think Ojemudia and Marshall (and maybe Furbush) are definitely going to be the Buck/OLB/WDE position.  Taco might have overgrown that position, or he could just be versatile enough to play either SDE or that Buck/OLB/WDE position.  Other than that, maybe Wormley and Poggi emerge at SDE?


January 19th, 2015 at 5:27 PM ^

Yeah, he's supposedly up to 6-4 270, so with another off-season of training, I think he'll certainly have the right kind of size to play SDE now.  Maybe still a little light to be an interior guy.

If I'm understanding correctly, Jonathan Bullard played SDE for Durkin at 6-3 271.


January 20th, 2015 at 11:46 AM ^

Godin seems to have been lost in this discussion.  He's shown some good pass rush ability: he doesn't really run around blockers (though he's been inside, so hasn't had much of a chance), but he's been able to "slip" by them and pressure the QB.  I was hoping he'd move to either DE spot this year.  The interior DL is a backlog, I think Godin needs to get out of there.  He has the body type and ability to provide some pass rush at SDE. 


January 19th, 2015 at 5:06 PM ^

When was the last time we had an assistant coach who moved up to head coach thanks to their success at Michigan? Ron English moved up to head coach of Eastern Michigan, but that was after a year at Louisville.

Mike DeBord?


January 19th, 2015 at 5:40 PM ^

Ironically, it was Brady Hoke, who left for Ball State after the 2002 season. Debord left for CMU after the '99 season.

Prior to that, you have to go all the way back to '94, when Les Miles was OL coach who left for the HC gig at Okie State starting in '95.

If you don't count Lloyd Carr taking over after Moeller was let go, there's a long drought going back to the '84 team, when Paul Schudel left the staff to take the Ball St HC position for the '85 season.

The next previous was Bill McCartney, who left after the '81 season to take over at Colorado. Before that it was Don Nehlen who left the team after the '79 season to take over at WVU. Tom Reed left after the '77 season to take the helm at Miami of Ohio. Moeller left after '76 to take the job in Champaign, and Chuck Stobart left the same year for Toledo. Eliot Uzelac left after '74 for Western Michigan. Frank Maloney left after '73 for Syracuse. Jim Young left after '72 for Arizona.

snarling wolverine

January 19th, 2015 at 10:58 PM ^

If you don't count Lloyd Carr taking over after Moeller was let go, there's a long drought going back to the '84 team

Well, Bo's final two coordinators were Moeller and Carr.  And then when Mo took over, Carr was his DC and I believe Mo was his own OC.  So there weren't really any other candidates for HC jobs besides those two.




January 19th, 2015 at 5:05 PM ^

A typical first gig is with a MAC-level program, but if the defense he builds here is what we're hoping it will be, I'd be surprised if he isn't snagged by some Power 5 program.


January 19th, 2015 at 5:32 PM ^

What type of technique did our CBs use last year?

It sounds like Nick Saban teaches his CBs to shuffle when they were in press man coverage.

If you remember couple years ago, people were shocked when Dre Kirpatrick said he never backpedaled at Alabama.



January 19th, 2015 at 6:57 PM ^

Since that GA spot Durkin spent…

  • two years as a grad assistant at Notre Dame under Greg Mattison

"I've been waiting for you, Matti-Son. We meet again, at last. The circle is now complete. When I left you, I was but the assistant; now I am the coordinator."

"Only a coordinator of the 3-4, Durth."

(helmets clash)

"Your coverages are weak, old man."

"You can't win, Durth."


January 19th, 2015 at 7:54 PM ^

  It has been a long time since we've had those.  It's much more enjoyable to see a 'Hello: <Coach>' post filled with "this guy gonna be great & all these schools really wanted him" instead of "hopeful rationalizations."