As familiar faces head to College Park, Maryland preparing for “faceless, nameless opponent”

Between the roster familiarity and DMV ties, the connections between Maryland and Charlotte begin with the two head coaches as Mike Locksley and Biff Poggi share the field for the first time on the college level.

A relationship that spans decades and even includes Mike Locksley’s son, Kai, once playing under Poggi, Maryland knows this weekend’s game will have a bit of a different feel to it.

“I’ve known Biff probably since about 1997, ‘98 when I came here as a young assistant and he was coach over at Gilman. We recruited his school for some time,” head coach Mike Locksley said on Tuesday. “When I came back here in 2012 when my son ended up going to Gilman and played three years there for coach Poggi and did a tremendous job of creating value for my son. He was able to sign with Texas coming out of high school, great education there at Gilman and Biff is one of those guys that’s similar to myself. He’s not just about developing them as football players, but developing them as people and I know he develops really strong relationships. And through that, he and I have become, great friends as well as obviously now competitors. And looking forward to it.”

“I know he’ll have his team ready to come play up here. It’s kind of a homecoming for him and some of the players on his roster. When you look across and see the amount of guys that are there with him that he had in high school and those guys were really good players. So we expect him to come up and, and give us his best and then he can expect to get ours.”

Maryland will look to find its groove in its second game of the season, and they’ll do so against some familiar faces opposite of them. Austin Fontaine and Isaiah Hazel both found themselves in the statbook, two of six former Terps now suiting up for Charlotte. The 49ers also boast 28 players who once suited up for St. Frances, some while Biff Poggi was the school’s head coach.

Maryland knows they benefit from having familiarity whether it be with the Niners’ personnel or coaches, but running back Roman Hemby and the team are aiming to prepare for a “faceless, nameless opponent” as he noted.

“We’re going to play the game to the standard of our standard, and you know, after the game we’ll talk to those guys and share moments with them, but right now we’re focused on business and taking care of the game and potentially winning it,” Hemby added.

Maryland saw countless rotations along the offensive line in the week one win over Towson, but that might not be the case heading into week two. “This week we’ll try to maybe solidify it a little bit. Maybe not have as much of the substitution there and give the guys a chance to gel and come together,” head coach Mike Locksley added.

As Maryland works to ensure they take the week one to two jump that they’ve referenced since Saturday’s win, all eyes will once again be on the trenches.

Locksley added he’s “hopeful” that portal Gottlieb Ayedze can make his debut against the 49ers this weekend, “which will again allow us to kind of solidify some things there.”

While Maryland will look take a step forward in the trenches, part of Maryland’s defensive focus is limiting Charlotte’s rushing attack. Both Durell Robinson and Shadrick Byrd saw at least ten carries in Charlotte’s win vs. South Carolina St, while quarterback Jalon Jones was one of two players who rushed for a touchdown after amassing 49 yards on ten carries.

Locksley noted that containing the running threat that Charlotte quarterback Jalon Jones poses “will be something we’ll have to deal with.”

“They got a really athletic quarterback in number one, Jalon Jones, who with the zone read games and the QB runs, which we expect to see because it adds an extra blocker for them, that’s something to be concerned for. It’s something that we expect and we’re preparing for. QB runs, like I said, give them a numbers advantage when you try to load the box so what we’ve got to do is be really gap sound. We’ve got to do a good job of getting off blocks. We’ve got to do a great job of containing him because we faced a week ago that had success came off with drop back passes and maybe rushing too far up the field and not level rushing the quarterback that allows the defense to kind of contain him inside the pocket. We’ve got to do a better job this week. I think we had 12 loss of contains in the game last week. And for us, I see losing contain is a lot like turnovers on offense. And so that’s something that we definitely have to get fixed from game one the game two.”

Kickoff is set for 7:30 PM.

Related Links

Good news from practice (+)

Maryland adds local lineman to 2024 class

Taulia Tagovailoa feels “great” heading into Charlotte

Analyzing Maryland’s offensive line rotations in the win vs. Towson (+)

Priority recruit sets return visit to Maryland (+)

Local DB returns for second visit within six weeks, talks first gameday at Maryland (+)

2025 three-star Pedro Reyes becoming familiar face in College Park (+)

Maryland opens as double-digit favorite vs. Charlotte in week two

More from Locksley, Hemby, Taulia

Mike Locksley’s opening statement

As I said after the game on Saturday, I thought the energy and effort was where we would want it to be but obviously, there’s still some things that we got to get cleaned up, which we expected. It’s always great to be able to clean things up with the win. Makes it a lot easier. It was great to be able to play a bunch of guys. We were able to play in all three phases a good amount of our team and anytime you’re able to do that, that’s very beneficial for us down the road. So there’s some things that will continue to clean up this week.

As per normal for a team, you usually see that big jump between game one and game two. And we’re very hopeful now that we’ve got a game with our belt. Some things that we need to get corrected. We’ll be able to get corrected and executed better in week two. Charlotte’s coming in. A national TV game here in The Shell at night, familiar opponent that we played a year ago. Obviously they’ve got a new coaching staff that we’re very familiar with. Coach [Biff] Poggi who I don’t just called an opponent. He’s also a dear friend, coached my son in high school, my son Kai played for Biff there at Gilman. So I’ve known Biff for a long, long time and got a lot of respect for him and the job he does as a coach and developing young men.

I know our fans will come out and create the environment that we want to have for a Saturday night national TV game and we’re very hopeful that we can pack The Shell. It’s a great opportunity for us to take the next step as a program and show our Terps fans what we’re all about as we continue to create an identity for us this year.

Our game captains this week Charlotte native DJ Glaze, Gereme Spraggins and Corey Dyches will serve as our game two captains. We’re looking forward to those guys leading us.”

Locksley on how the OL developed in week one

“Going into it, obviously, we had a couple of missing pieces there that had been available to us most of training camp. We’re hopeful that we’re able to get [Gottlieb Ayedze] back this week, possibly, which will again allow us to kind of solidify some things there. I thought, for the most part, the O line did a decent job. Our quarterback got sacked on the last play of the game, gave up one sack. When you watch the tape, it seems as though there was pressure, especially interior pressure for our quarterback early on. But after you review it, you see it, that’s just a… some of that is an example of our quarterback who doesn’t give up on plays. And when Lia tries to extend plays, there are times that maybe he puts himself in harm’s way. And what we’re going to do is continue to coach him how to help protect himself as well as our line to understand that we do have a guy back there that if you allow him to extend things, usually good things happen. As coming out of that first game, we have a pretty good understanding now of what those guys do in game. And so, this week we’ll try to maybe solidify it a little bit. Maybe not have as much of the substitution there. And give the guys a chance to gel and come together. But it was good to be able to play a lot of them a week ago, to give us an opportunity to evaluate them in game situations.”

Locksley on the familiarity on Charlotte’s roster, what jumps out

“Game one for them, I don’t coach their team, but it looked like they didn’t show a lot. I mean, they didn’t have to necessarily, I guess, get too deep into their game plan. When you watch the tape, I think they had 68 snaps on defense and they were in some base man free stuff, but when you do your research as we’ve done over the summer with our summer scouting report, we expect them to play more split safety than maybe post safety stuff that they showed a week ago. On the offensive side of the ball, again, they were very limited gameplan and they were able to get their stuff executed. If you know Biff, you know, he wants to run the football, he wants to play downhill. He’s kind of one of those guys that wants to make it a tough, gritty game and that’s what we expect. Again, the familiarity, obviously they’ve got Mike Miller, a former assistant here who’s been with me for some time. There is some familiarity from a personnel standpoint. You look across their roster and they’ve got, I want to say, 25, 30 guys from Power Five institutions so they’ve been able to flip their roster and they’ve got some really talented players in all three phases.”

Locksley on Maryland’s first NBC game

“All of our partners are equally important. I think obviously with this time slot being a national TV time slot, it’s good for Maryland. It’s good for us to showcase the university. It’s good for us to showcase the things that we have here in the DMV area so we’re excited about the opportunity.

NBC takes the place of some of the other partners maybe we’ve had down the past, but I know this, the guys that are calling it for them are professional. They call games really well. They’ll do their due diligence. And I know as a conference, we’re excited about being able to have NBC as a major partner for us.”

Locksley on defense not allowing a TD over three consecutive games

“I think any time you’re able to, the goal on defense is to limit scoring and this past weekend we were able to hold them with two field goals.

We gave up some yardage there to but we dug in our heels there once they crossed into the red zone area. I think it’s a testament to the players. Coming into it, we felt that our defense, we had a chance to be pretty good on defense because of the front seven. It was great with the additions of guys like Jaquan Shepard being able to come fill in and fill some voids and he played really well for so I think the defense is the strength of our team from the standpoint that we’ve got a lot of veteran leadership. I think that side of the ball has quite a few great leaders and I think, they got off to a fast start on defense and I hope we’re able to continue it through this next game.”

Locksley on the importance of showcasing Maryland on a national stage

“Any time you play a national TV game, it’s great for the university. I saw something come out where we’re ranked in the top 30, 25 universities in the country. When you bring a national TV audience to your campus, you’re able to illuminate the great things about being here in the DMV, the fourth largest media market in the country. And so it gives us an opportunity to really show what we have here. And so, like I said before, our players are excited. I’m excited about this partnership and to be able to play here but obviously we gotta go do the work and do the things necessary to keep this excitement.”

Locksley on adjustments to passing offense

“One of the questions I often times get about Taulia is what can he do to improve? And I think I’ve been on a record that, last year we left some plays on the field in the deep passing game, which was something that I think is a strength of his. I attributed last year’s to possibly just the timing. When you think of the receivers we had a year ago, three starters were coming off of injuries where they missed spring ball. Dontay Demas didn’t practice in the spring. Rakim Jarrett didn’t practice. Jacob Copeland was limited. And so I don’t think we ever really got the timing down and there were times where they were open guys and it’d be mishit or didn’t hit them accurately.

There are times where we maybe missed the read. So after you review and go through kind of the quality control of what we can do better, that was the one area in Lia’s game that we thought we needed to improve. And so what you do is you go about figuring out setting up individual drill work. Some of it is footwork for him in the back end and making sure that he’s got his eyes in the right place and that the ball has the right trajectory where you throw guys open.

I thought Saturday, obviously, you had the big one that was dropped and then came back and, had a couple of drops on some deep shots where I thought he threw the ball where we wanted it to be thrown with the type of trajectory. So worked really hard, Josh [Gattis] continues to drill quite a bit and you see the fruits of the work.”

Locksley on how the QB room fared in week one

“As I said earlier with Lia, some of the hits he took, as you can see, were part of him extending plays. I mean, one of the things that you love about him is that he has the ability to extend and one of the things that scares the mess out of you is when he does try to extend, sometimes he puts himself in harm’s way.

As I said to him on the sideline, it’s okay to give up on a play and play the next down. But I think every play, because of the competitiveness he has, he’s trying to make everything work. But as he continues to mature and he’s really shown the ability, he could have finished the game. We took most of the starters out after the first drive of the second half.

I don’t, there’s nothing structurally, I mean he got banged up and when you play the game of football the way Lia plays sometimes he’ll take some of these shots and my goal is to minimize them and eliminate them and we’ll continue to work with him on maybe not trying to make everything a touchdown and throwaways are good.

I think he was 23-of-33 and he had seven drops and three throwaways. So, the accuracy is there. We just gotta continue to work with him to help protect himself. And then we gotta do a better job on the interior part of our protection where we solidify those A and B gaps to give him a little more time from a vision standpoint.”

Locksley on success in season-opening games and the possibility of opening against Ohio State or Penn State

“I have not thought about it. I guess winning the opening game is means I can hit the fastball, but I need to work on that curveball a little bit. The conference makes our schedule. We play whoever pops up on there and we’ve been really fortunate that we’ve had opportunities to have success early, which I think is great for a team that’s in building mode like we are because we want to try to get better with each game.

We all know we play a tough, tough league and so you want to build up to it and continue to work through the kinks so that once we do hit conference play, which is a second season for us, we’re hoping to be hitting on all cylinders. And so to be able to open up, I think it’s great for the area when we play local teams like Towson, like Howard and some of these teams here, I think it’s always great to play regional rivalries like West Virginia, like Virginia. I’ve shared my opinions with Colleen and with Damon in terms of scheduling from that standpoint, but the plan, how they’re put on our schedule.”

Locksley on what drew the staff to CB Ja’Quan Sheppard out of the portal

“His size, his speed. He was probably the best available corner in the transfer portal. First-team all-conference guy in the AAC, and they played against some teams that throw the ball around the yard. I knew about him, as I told you, a lot of the guys in the portal were guys that we’ve recruited that we have really close ties so that we know what type of character we’re bringing in. That’s really important to me. We’ll always be a team that recruits high school first. We’ll use the portal to fill needs as we’ve done here the last couple of years and we’ve been really fortunate to be able to get a guy like Ja’Quan to come here when you could have gone anywhere in the country. I think it’s a testament to the things we’re doing and also to what we have to offer our kids. So, how he compares to Deonte Banks, I mean, they look very similar in their uniforms. I think he may be even a little bigger than Tae is, but, I’m really pleased with the way he played in the first game for us.”

Taulia on Charlotte

“Charlotte, they have a really good team, they have a good head coach. Their DC has a lot of experience, been in a lot of big games, but talent wise, they have really good D line. They have a good secondary who can run with a lot of receivers and stuff like that. They play hard to the ball and they present a good challenge for us this weekend.”

Taulia on opening the season with a win at home

“All our hard work coming into offseason, we always wanted to start off fast. That was our main goal. At the end of the day, start off 1-0 in the season. I give our crowd our fans out here something to look forward to and keep the excitement going.”

Taulia on deep ball improvement

“Every day at practice, really starting from spring, just getting the timing down with every receiver, always working on deep balls and it’s kind of a two-way street thing. The receiver’s got to run hard and give that game like look. I just started from training camp all the way up and still to this day, we’re continuing to work on it every day at practice and we know football now is all about explosive plays and for our offense we need more explosive plays and more deep shots, so we’re definitely going to continue to work on that.”

Taulia on how important his deep ball is

“It’s very important. At the end of the day, it’s all fundamentals. When it comes to throwing the ball, you got to make sure you’re not stepping too wide off of your platform. And that’s one of the problems I had. I would over straddle my front foot and the ball would die out sometimes. So, stuff like that, just continue to work on it and make sure I’m staying tight with my release point and not looking at the ball, looking at the receiver and stuff like that.”

Taulia on what leaves him confident and area of growth

“We had a lot of new guys on the O line, we had a lot of new guys outside on receiver and just the tempo we was playing with. I think that was really good to see us executing our base plays and stuff like that. I think the most important thing I gotta work on is ball security. A lot of times I broke the pocket with one hand on the ball and, that’s something we’ve been continuing to work on since I got here. It’s kind of like an old habit that I have, so I just got to continue to have two hands on the ball every time I move around in the pocket and protect the football.”

Taulia on TE Corey Dyches

“Dyches is a very hard worker. Obviously, that’s my boy and he just continues to find the right open spots. He can do it all. He can run the ball, he can catch, he can block. And whatever we need of him, he’s always there to do it. And I’m happy that he had a really good game in his new jersey.”

Taulia on his health

“I feel great.”

Taulia on the balance between limiting the number of hits and making plays

“It’s kind of hard for me being very competitive. Every play to us matters so much and, when a play breaks down, you obviously want to be the problem solver to the play. But like coach said, it’s not worth it taking those hits on the sideline and taking hits late in the pocket and stuff like that. It’s kind of a thing I got to manage and learn when to let the play go and learn how to live for another play.”

Taulia on getting comfortable with Mike Purcell

“I feel very comfortable with whether Mike’s in there, whether Aric [Harris] in there or Corey [Bullock] in there. But with Mike, I feel very confident with him in there. I think he’s done a really good job of adapting to our system. The center position is always a hard position coming in, especially if you’re new. There’s a lot of different calls and just the language we speak is very different and I think he’s done a really good job of adapting to it.”

Taulia on expected atmosphere vs. Charlotte

“It’s obviously very exciting. It’s a blessing we get to play on big platforms like that, but I think the biggest thing we need to do is continue to focus on our job. We’ve just got to go in there and execute, but it’s definitely going to be exciting and I know we’re going to have a good crowd.”

Taulia on watching the defense in week one

“I think Roman [Hemby] hit it on the dot. I think the look we get at practice every day, good on good or scout, I think it’s really helpful for us and it gets us better. Coach Locks always talks about iron sharpens iron and we all take that to heart. Every good-on-good rep we have with each other, we try to go hard. And we only have two days of hard practices and stuff like that. So we always try to get each other better and we know we have full confidence that the best team we’re going to play is the team that we practice against every time. We know that we can only beat ourselves and the more we continue to get better with each other, the better we’ll be overall.”

Taulia on WR Octavian Smith

“He’s not so a young player no more. He’s stepping into the role that we have for him over here, and he’s another guy, whatever we ask of him, he’ll do it. He can play a lot of different positions, on the offensive side. He also kick returns, punt returns, and very good leader. One of our leaders on our team too, and I have a lot of trust in every receiver that goes in the game and I have trust in all of them.”

Hemby on how the RB room fared in week one

“I feel like we did a pretty good job Saturday. [There’s] always room for improvement. Coach Locks always talks about how good teams always make their biggest jump from week one to week two, so just diving into the film and seeing where we can be better. I know there’s always ways that we can be better. Some missed reads and things like that that we can get cleaned up and, and pass protection, just being more firm. And I feel like coach [Latrell] Scott does a really good job in practice during the week to make sure that we’re prepared for Saturdays and I feel like we’ll do that job this week to get ready.”

Hemby on the changes in the 2023 offense

“I feel like we always have firepower on offense. We always have a lot of guys that can make big plays, but I mean, I feel like so far I’ve seen a lot of guys that are gelling together and really working hard and that starts during the week. I’ll make sure that when we go out there today to practice that we are firing on all cylinders and that we’re trying to be as perfect as we can with execution because, those things are what translates to Saturday. In college, the system is pretty much a little, little tweaks here and there. But it’s football at the end of the day. I feel like those are two great coaches and they have like-minded qualities and things like that. So I haven’t seen too much of a big jump, but I know that the guys, they play really hard for whoever they’re under and whoever they’re being coached by.”

Hemby on the DMV feel facing Charlotte

“That is a team that has a lot of ties to this area. I actually have a lot of people on the team that I know, former teammates and things like that. We’re going to do what Coach Locks says, and we respect the game, so we’re going to treat it like we don’t know the opponent, faceless, nameless opponent, and we’re going to play the game to the standard of our standard, and you know, after the game we’ll talk to those guys and share moments with them, but right now we’re focused on business and taking care of the game and potentially winning it.”

Hemby on playing on NBC

“I feel like our team has generated a lot of buzz, just from the talent that we have and the potential that we have, and I feel like this is an opportunity for us to, put our best foot forward and show the country and the nation what we got.”

Hemby on fan energy during the win vs. Towson

“I feel like it’s definitely something that we notice. The fans, they play a huge role in the game for us, especially with defense, third down, they are creating an environment that’s really beneficial for us. And that’s definitely our home field advantage. And I feel like I’ve been able to see the progress and fan turnout and interactions and things like that over the few years that I’ve been here. And I feel like, they definitely do a really good job helping us to succeed because of their input in the game. And I’m really looking forward to seeing them keep coming out and doing the things that they are doing.”

Hemby on roster familiarity and what sticks out about Charlotte’s front seven

“Nothing that really jumps out to us too crazy. They play a great brand of football and they’re coached by really good coaches. So we know that we’re gonna have our work cut out for us. As we dive deeper into the film, we’ll definitely see some of those things that you talk about with like some familiar guys and some of the things that they do. I feel like we’re gonna have a good scheme and I feel like if we stick to our scheme, we’ll be put in a position to be successful.”

Hemby on what his role is this season

“I really feel like it’s just continuing to progress and prove myself right. Our coaches put a lot of trust in me to put me out there on the field and, um. So I take that with a lot of care and responsibility because I feel like we all work together to help this offense flow and help this team flow. So stepping into a role and just becoming more confident in my role to help this team is something that I take with a lot of importance. And I feel like going into this second year of really playing, I want to be able to polish up on some things that were kind of hard for me last year so that I can help this team to be elevated because you know, we always talk about doing better than we’ve done in the past.”

Hemby on how defensive stops motivate offense

“It motivates us a lot because not only do we get to see them on game day, get to stop the other offense and give us more opportunities, but those are the guys that we go against in practice as well. I feel like if we’re able to have success against them in practice, we’re going to be able to have success against pretty much anybody that we play against because they work really hard and they make sure that we are at the top of our game every time and as far as the game, with them being able to get three and outs and things like that, that just helps the offense to have more plays and more time on the field. I’m definitely blessed to have them on the other side of the field and I feel like we have an iron sharpens iron mindset so they’re definitely making me a better player along in the process.”

Hemby on the importance of showing Maryland’s local ties on national TV

“I think it’s really important, honestly. When I was going through my process figuring out where I wanted to go, I had to, you know, kind of sit back and think about that as well. And, um, I feel like just playing for the name that’s on the front of the jersey, being from Maryland and playing for Maryland, it gives me a certain sense of pride that makes me want to stay home and it makes me play a little harder because I’m representing my hometown. So as much DMV guys as we can get here and keeping these guys home, I think it’s definitely better for the trajectory of this program because I can see a lot of the DMV guys. They take things with a different level of heart and a different manner because it just means a little bit more and I feel like that’s kind of what you guys are able to see on Saturdays as well with us playing really hard for our home state.”

Hemby on areas of growth and where he is in his development

“I always talk about being able to make that guy miss in space with second-level cuts and things like that and pass protection. I want to become more firm in pass protection as well. I feel like I’ve made a little bit of progress with that in that regard, but you know, there’s always work to be done and teams definitely scheme for different things and they try to attack weaknesses. So as I continue to practice throughout the weeks, I want to be able to, keep seeing those things and keep getting experience with that second-level cut, making that guy missing space and just being able to get my punch right when I go to pass block just so I can keep getting better so that I don’t have any weaknesses on Saturdays when those teams come in from wherever they’re coming to play against us.”

Hemby on the importance of pass blocking

“I feel like it’s definitely very important. Looking at the running back position as a whole, a lot of people kind of overlook that aspect of the game. If you can run the ball really well some people don’t really look at your past blocking ability but I feel like to be a well rounded back you have to be able to do that so. I feel like since I’ve been here, I’ve been really willing to do it, but the fundamentals weren’t always there for me to do it the right way. Going through practices and practice weeks, I’ve been really working hard and coach [Latrell] Scott has been working really hard to put us in positions to kind of attack those vulnerabilities to make us really work at it. And I feel like I’ve been getting better, there’s definitely some improvement that needs to be made as well but protecting our quarterback is the main thing because without our quarterback, the offense doesn’t work the way it needs to. And I feel like I play a key role helping that to flow because being right there next to him and having a vital block to keep the offense going.”

Hemby on the pride he takes in pass blocking as an NFL prospect

“It’s definitely something that goes into account when you have aspirations to play at the next level, but, I say for myself, I really just want to be as good of a player as I can. So if it entails me pass blocking and run blocking, I want to be the best run blocker or pass blocker I can. I’ve been trying to be more marketed, put myself in a situation where I can be marketed in a better light. So, that’s definitely what comes with it and I’ve been taking it with a positive mindset because I want to be the best at the position and I want to be the best to do it. So I got to be able to be willing to do things that other people aren’t.”