On the SEC teleconference Wednesday, UK coach Mark Stoops was asked about the Florida defense.
“I tell you, that defense is very impressive,” said Stoops, whose team faces the Gators on Saturday night at Commonwealth Stadium. “I’ve talked about them quite often this week, but they deserve it. It’s an impressive group. I love the energy that they play with and the passion they play with, and you know they’re well coached with Will Muschamp and of course (defensive coordinator) D.J. Durkin, he’s a Youngstown (Ohio) guy, so I wouldn’t expect nothing less from a guy from Youngstown to coach them up that way.”
Indeed, the Gators do have a prominent tie to Stoops’ hometown.
Durkin, 35, was born in Youngstown. Stoops, 45, grew up in Youngstown and played at Cardinal Mooney — along with current Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini and current UK assistant Vince Marrow — but Durkin grew up in nearby Boardman, Ohio, and attended Boardman High School.
When Meyer left for Utah, Durkin got a job as a grad assistant at Notre Dame under Ty Willingham in 2003. After two years in South Bend, Durkin returned to Bowling Green, where he got his first full-time job as an assistant under Gregg Brandon in 2005 and 2006. Brandon coached the defensive ends in 2005 and added the title of special teams coordinator in 2006.
Then Durkin headed west, where he coached special teams and defensive ends for Jim Harbaugh at Stanford from 2007 to 2009. The Cardinal improved from 4-8 to 5-7 to 8-5 in Durkin’s three years in Palo Alto.
He reunited with Meyer in 2010, at Florida, where Durkin coached the linebackers and was special teams coordinator. When Will Muschamp became the Gators head coach in 2011, he retained Durkin on the Florida staff.
When defensive coordinator Dan Quinn departed after last season to join Pete Carroll as defensive coordinator with the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks — Quinn had been Seattle’s defensive line coach before coming to Gainesville — Muschamp named Durkin as the replacement.
The Gators allowed just 205 yards to Toledo in the season opener, 212 yards in a loss to Miami and 220 yards last Saturday in a two-touchdown win over Tennessee. Florida forced the Vols into six turnovers.
Toledo and Miami each rushed for just 50 yards against the Gators. Tennessee managed just 66 rushing yards against Durkin’s defense.
The new defensive coordinator might have some fixing to do this week, however, if reports are accurate concerning defensive tackle Damion Easley (above), who injured his knee in practice Tuesday.