Maryland offensive coordinator Walt Bell is expected to be hired in that same role at Florida State, a person with knowledge of the situation confirmed Wednesday.
Bell, 33, who was one of Coach DJ Durkin’s first hires when he took over in College Park in 2015, will be part of the new staff of Willie Taggart, who was hired by Florida State in December after the departure of Jimbo Fisher to Texas A&M.
Maryland has already lost two other offensive assistants during this offseason: Running backs coach Anthony Tucker left to take the same job at Central Florida, and Tyler Bowen vacated his role as offensive line coach to accept a position on Penn State’s staff. Durkin replaced Bowen with former James Madison and Virginia Tech assistant Bryan Stinespring but has not yet filled the opening left by Tucker.
It remains unclear who Durkin might target to replace Bell, who brought his up-tempo spread offense to Maryland after serving two seasons as offensive coordinator at Arkansas State. Bell also developed his offensive style during earlier stints at North Carolina and Oklahoma State and promised to produce the kind of exciting offensive football that had often eluded Maryland during the Randy Edsall era.
Bell never had a healthy stable of quarterbacks in College Park; he coached seven starters in just two seasons, although there were immediate signs of progress for the offense. Maryland posted 173 points in the first four games of the 2016 season, a program record, and Bell’s offense averaged more yards per play, more first downs, more touchdowns and fewer turnovers than in Maryland’s previous season.
After a 6-7 finish in 2016, Maryland’s offense also had a rousing start to 2017, hanging 51 points on Texas in a season-opening win in Austin. But Maryland lost its top two quarterbacks, Tyrrell Pigrome and Kasim Hill, to season-ending injuries within the first three weeks, which often left Bell’s offense one-dimensional.
Maryland finished 11th in the Big Ten in points (24.1) and total yards (323.3) per game in 2017; while the rushing offense was generally productive, averaging 161.7 yards per outing, the pass offense also averaged that number and ranked 12th in the league as Maryland finished 4-8.
Bell will certainly see a pay raise at Florida State. He initially signed a three-year contract with Maryland worth $500,000 annually.
Durkin could make an internal move to replace Bell, who also served as quarterbacks coach. Maryland wide receivers coach Chris Beatty has served as an offensive coordinator twice in his career, at Hampton in 2006 and at Illinois in 2012.
Durkin last week moved assistant head coach and tight ends coach Pete Lembo off his duties as special teams coordinator, which now belong to linebackers coach Matt Barnes.
Aside from the movement on the offensive side of the ball, Durkin has also made one other hire on the defensive side this offseason, bringing in former Marshall defensive coordinator Chuck Heater to coach safeties.