Meet the Coaches: Auburn defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin

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Auburn Defensive Coordinator D.J. Durkin. (Austin Perryman/AU Athletics)

AUBURN, Ala. – If you ask Auburn coordinator DJ Durkin what the Tigers’ defense will look like this fall, he might advise you to check back with him after spring practice.

In his fourth SEC program as a defensive coordinator, Durkin builds his defenses around his players’ strengths.

“We’re identifying what guys do well,” he said. “As a coach, the No. 1 thing you have to do is put your players in position to have success. It’s identifying these are the things we’re good at and gearing more of the scheme toward that.

“If you look at everywhere we’ve been, we’ve been a little different every place and that’s based on what our personnel does best. That’s our job as coaches.”

At his coordinator stops at Florida, Michigan, Ole Miss and Texas A&M, Durkin’s defenses have all had commonalities.

“Play with an edge, play fast,” Durkin said. “The biggest thing for me is when you have a defense that plays with great effort and tackles well, those two things usually spell out good results.

“That’s what we’re looking to do. Those things are a process. Some of that is recruiting, getting the right guys, some of that is coaching and putting them in position to have success.”

This will be Durkin’s 10th season in the Southeastern Conference.

“You better be good upfront first and foremost at the line of scrimmage,” said Durkin, who will also coach Auburn’s linebackers. “It’s pretty well-documented around the country that football in this conference is as good as it gets. The competitiveness week in and week out to sustain through this conference schedule is what makes it different.”

After completing his playing career at Bowling Green in Ohio, Durkin listened when his coaches encouraged him to become a coach.

“I figured why not give it a shot,” recalled Durkin, who began as a graduate assistant, first at his alma mater then at Notre Dame before returning to Bowling Green in 2005-06 to coach defensive ends, linebackers and special teams. “I fell in love with it and knew right away that’s what I wanted to do.

“I’ve been blessed to work with some great head coaches as well as alongside a lot of assistants. You take bits and pieces of things you like that fit you. The most important thing as a coach is to be truthful, be genuine and be your own personality.”

DJ and his wife, Sarah, are the parents of two athletic children: 13-year-old Abigail competes in soccer and track and field, and 11-year-old Luke plays baseball, football and basketball.

“They’ve been here a couple weekends visiting and seeing it all, but they’re excited to get here permanently soon,” he said.

Durkin encourages prospective student-athletes to choose Auburn for the same reasons he did.

“You look at the history of this place and the football tradition, it’s second to none in the country,” he said. “You look at this new facility and the things that have been put in this program to give us the opportunity to have success at the highest level, again I would say it’s second to none in the country.

“With the coaching staff that Coach Freeze has put together and the environment he has created, I think it’s a unique culture to anywhere else in the country. When you come here and visit, I think you get a feel for that.

“I know I did. I know a lot of others have said the same thing. If you want to come to a place and get developed at the highest level with the opportunity to go play at the highest level, it’s here.”