If you follow recruiting, the name Friendship Academy should ring a bell. It is one of the most respected college football factories and academic institutions within the Washington D.C. region. How it got there is in large part due to the work of Aazar Abdul-Rahim, who made the program go out of whole cloth.
On Monday, a long-rumored return to the D.C. area became official as Jeff Emann of Inside MD Sports reported on his hire as the defensive backs coach for D.J. Durkin’s new Maryland Terrapins staff.
It’s a huge coup for Durkin and a great move to ensure talent from the DMV (D.C., Maryland, Virginia) area isn’t going elsewhere. His credentials as a coach are not in question, as the 39-year old coach took a new program from the ground to the top of the D.C.-area mountain.
Players like NFL-bound Yannick Ngakoue and blue-chip national recruits like Eddie Goldman (Florida State) and Jalen Tabor (Florida) were all developed by Abdul-Rahim during his time at Friendship Academy.
Abdul-Rahim’s success there got the attention of the Godfather of college football coaching — Alabama’s Nick Saban. He took a position on his staff as the assistant recruiting coordinator and has been there the past two years, but Durkin’s offer to get back in to coaching couldn’t be passed up.
Maryland was putting together a pretty impressive haul on the 2016 recruiting trail before the firing of Randy Edsall and now the loss of former interim head coach and offensive coordinator Mike Locksley. The later was integral to the haul out of the DMV area, including prized quarterback Dwayne Haskins.
Durkin’s ability to recruit is not in question, as we’ve seen that be a strength of his at every stop along the way in his career. However, his familiarity with the DMV area is not nearly as great as it could be.
Hiring Abdul-Rahim not only solves that problem, it gives him a major win in one of the most hotly contested areas of the country. Coaches and players know who Abdul-Rahim is, but most importantly they’ve seen how he develops players.
There’s no need to sell the Terrapins itself, but to be able to sell the belief in Abdul-Rahim and his coaching abilities. Being able to relate to the kids and show them a positive path forward while staying close to home is a huge thing.
Along with the recruiting win, Durkin will pair him up with a group of defensive backs with plenty of individual talent and nothing to show for it as a group. The Terps finished this season allowing the second-most passing touchdowns and third-most passing yards per game in the Big Ten.
Getting the combination of higher-level athlete and better coaching is a huge win for Durkin and his developing staff.
Let’s just see if all the pieces fit together to push in the right direction to get this program moving forward towards consistent bowl eligibility.