On Tuesday, we had a chance to talk to D.J. Durkin for the first time since he was promoted to defensive coordinator (and for the first time since Will Muschamp took over for Urban Meyer).
Durkin comes across as very intelligent, very energetic coach who is ready to take command of the Muschamp defense, which will not change under a new coordinator.
Here is some of what Durkin had to say:
On being named the coordinator:
“I’m very excited. Excited because of the guys I get to work with, both players and coaches. I think it’s a great opportunity. Very excited about it. It’s a new challenge. Any time you do something for that long, you kind of get in your routine, and you get the normalcies of it and all that. It’s exciting for me to have new challenges and some different things to work on and do.”
Any hesitancy in moving Antonio Morrison to middle linebacker?
“No. There’s not. Antonio is a very physical player to begin with, that’s kind of his nature, his style of play. He’s put some weight on, some size on this offseason. I think he’ll be just fine by the time we get to the year he’ll be about 230 pounds or so. He’s a durable guy, and that’s kind of his nature, his style of play. He fits that really well, just how he plays the game.”
Thoughts on the pass rush this season:
“We’re very excited about that. When you talk about the opportunity of getting Ronald Powell back, getting Neiron Ball back off injury, then you have Dante Fowler, Jon Bullard — those types of guys can all do some things off the edge for us. We’re very excited about that. That’s an area that we need to improve on this year and is an emphasis coming through this spring and into next season, to be able to affect the quarterback and not only get sacks, but get hits and move the guy and affect him and move him off the spot in the pocket. All those guys I mentioned, plus some others in different blitz packages and different things we can do off the edge. We feel like we’ve got some dynamic guys out there that can really help us. That’s something we need to be better at.”
“You’ve seen the identity of our defense, what we as a staff have wanted to build here. We want to be a tough, blue-collar team. We want to play with unbelievable effort and enthusiasm in what we’re doing. That’s the way I coach. That’s my personality. That’s what I hope I’ve carried over to our special teams and it’d be the same thing with our defense. We’ve got a great system in place. We’re not changing the terminology and all that. Coach Muschamp, it’s his system and he’s a great defensive mind. It’s been great for all of us to learn that system. That’s what this game’s all about: we’re gonna be a blue-collar team, tough, physical, both mentally and physically tough and just play with great enthusiasm and great attitude.”
Challenge of replacing seven starters:
“I think one of the great things about this place and what we’ve been able to do is we play a lot of guys on defense. You go out there and watch the Pro Day, we lost some very good players right there and guys that contributed a lot. But at the same time we have a lot of guys coming back that contributed quite a bit. Because we’re not just playing 11 guys. We play 20-something guys in a game on defense, and we want to continue that. So we’ve got some up-and-coming guys we feel really good about. We’ve had some really good recruiting classes. Guys that we’re excited to watch. This spring is going to be awesome to see guys go compete for spots. We have a good nucleus of guys coming back that have played a lot for us already in games, and then we’ve got the next group coming up. They’ve got to be the guys that get in there, too, so we can play 18-19-20-something guys in the game.”
On his ability to hang around at UF:
“I don’t know, it’s good timing I guess, I don’t know. I’ve always just tried to keep your head down and work as hard as you can, and deal with your players honestly and deal with other coaches honestly and just be who you are. And it really is, it is good timing. I was very fortunate to be kept on and it’s been great. I enjoy working with coach Muschamp. I think we’ve got a really good thing going here. And I mean that in terms of the players we’ve been able to bring in. We’ve got a room full of guys we enjoy. When you walk in the room to go coach them, you’re excited about it and you enjoy it. I think overall that’s the biggest thing. These guys enjoy playing with each other, playing together and we enjoy coaching them.”