Colby McDonald “earned the opportunity” for increased role in run game

Maryland’s rushing attack has struggled to generate much consistency through the season, especially in conference play, with just 115 yards per game on the ground. The offense may face its stiffest test of the season when ninth-ranked Penn State heads to SECU Stadium this weekend, but Colby McDonald could be in line for an increased workload for the final four games.

“Colby has been one of the guys that has had some production with not necessarily a lot of opportunities and I think he’s earned the opportunity that you’ll probably see his load increase,” head coach Mike Locksley said on Thursday.

The rushing attack has largely looked like a two-headed attack over the last two season, but McDonald leads the backs averaging 7.1 yards per carry while registering 266 yards on 37 attempts, 194 yards and 51 attempts fewer than Roman Hemby.

“Roman dealt with some knee injury stuff earlier that kind of maybe slowed him down, but it’s more how we game plan. It’s more the utilizing all the different guys that we have that have the ability to make plays and Roman’s still certainly one of those guys.”

More from Locksley on the defensive struggles, minimizing the missed tackles and generating turnovers heading into November:

On current vs preseason expectations

“It’s about the results. We’re a result-oriented business and with three losses, you kind of eliminate yourself. So, to me, it’s a matter of, we aren’t ready obviously to compete for championships this year because we hadn’t played to the level that we need to to be in the running and it’s where we are today.”

[cont.”

“We haven’t played to our potential. We haven’t played to our standard the past few weeks. I don’t make excuses. We will continue to coach our guys, the efforts there with our players. We’ve lost two games by one score and a year ago, we won two of those games. If you think back to the Northwestern and Indiana run a year ago, we were behind in the Indiana game. Billy brought us back. We won the Northwestern game in a hard-fought battle here. This year we take care of those types of games. They were very winnable and there were things that we can control and we didn’t do it. So again, we will continue to strive for. We have an opportunity this week against a ranked team here at home. And it gives us an opportunity to try to go take care of business, get back on the right track.”

On what’s led to defensive struggles

“I think the biggest thing is we’ve talked about the eye discipline. I mean, a lot of the plays that have been made, we’ve had some contested catches when people throw the ball up there, we’ve got to be able to go make a play. But then we’ve also given up some chunk plays with bad eyes where guys are maybe not in the position they need to be in, not having their eyes where they need to be to be in position to get us in position to make plays in the passing game. But to me, these are all correctable things that we will continue to work on and having Tarheeb back should help us. Came back a week ago after missing a few weeks and a guy with this experience, definitely like to have him out there.”

On injuries in the secondary

“The experience of losing a guy like Tarheeb in one game, we lost Dante Trader in another game as well. But we’ve got some very qualified and capable backups that have to be able to come in and play to the standard. When you play with bad eye discipline, I don’t think that factors in the, a guy not being out there. That factors in a guy not doing his job or playing to the standard that we have set on the backend.”

On generating turnovers through Big Ten play

“Well, it’s a little bit of luck and it’s a little bit of execution. We had opportunities with two opportunities in the game against the Northwestern, Corey Coley in the end zone had [an] interception opportunity that he didn’t take advantage of. And then we punched the ball out, Tarheeb punched the ball out down when they were going into score where the ball ended up on the ground and we just, again, didn’t pursue to the football. I always say good things happen when you run to the ball and the two things that jumped out defensively from our last game was that we had the most missed tackles that we’ve had all year long. And then the second one was we had the most loafs, which is not running to the football. And then that’s something we hadn’t done all year long on defense. We’ll get that part corrected here and go out this week and try to execute a little better.”

On defense not generating turnovers in practice

“We do tackle circuit and turnover circuit every day, Tuesdays and Wednesdays every day. We put a big emphasis on protecting the ball on our side and then defensively, trying to get the ball out. Turnovers kind of are contagious. When we had him going earlier in the year, we were getting them in bunches, whether it be fumble recoveries or interceptions, fourth-down stops or turnovers as well in our book. But no, it’s not anything in practice. As you achieve what you emphasize, we have emphasized or continue to emphasize the importance of trying to create the turnovers and then on our side of the ball, offensively, taking care of the ball. And, if you look at the last two games, we’ve not got any turnovers and we’ve lost a couple in both games.”

On Big Ten’s coaches call regarding Michigan’s sign stealing scandal

“I’m not one of those guys that likes to discuss personal issues like that. I think if you could figure out who the person that decided to say what that call was in reference to, you may have a better chance talking to him. He seems like maybe the guy that could help you, but it’s a personnel matter. I got a lot of respect for our commissioner and our conference and the way we do business and that’s just not something I’ll get into.”

On minimizing missed tackles vs. Penn State

“We’re thudding in practice. We wore pads on Tuesday, Wednesday to where we got the tackling work we typically do. We did good-on-good. Again, I’m hoping that the lack of our tackling. Didn’t come from a fundamental because all year long we had been a really good tackling team where we were on pace to maybe have one of the better years of not having a bunch of missed tackles. But to me, it goes back to we also had some loafs and not running to the ball. Typically, you see us play defense, you see our guys eleven hats to the ball and playing with their hair on fire and we’ve got to get back to that part of it. I don’t anticipate us having another tackling day like that, because again, we do the things during the week to prepare for it and it’s now just a matter of getting it done in the game.”

On the run game for the rest of 2023 season

“We’re always striving for balance, and I say this all the time, and I don’t know if maybe I’m not saying it in a way you guys get it, but our goal is to be good at running and throwing, and then we obviously look at our self-scout to see what we’re doing efficiently. And one of the things I’m tasked to do and continue to do is make sure that we’re giving our guys the best chance to win. And right now, in the run game and the passing game, we’re still trying to find that ability in terms of being efficient. There will be some games if we line up in certain formations and we get light boxes that you’ll see more run opportunities and the production that we all want to get used to. But, you know, we don’t make a point of emphasis to say, hey, we’re gonna just line up and run it. We say we want to be able to do both really well and be able to do them when we need to do them. I’d love to see us become more efficient just in general than we have been maybe the last couple of games in terms of being able to run and throw the ball efficiently.”

On game planning offensively

“No, we continue to game plan and utilize all the weapons we have. Does it change from game to game? For sure, depending on a guy’s production, how many opportunities we want to get him. I’m one of those guys that typically going into a game, I have an idea in my mind or my call sheet, like, hey, we got to try to get this guy going. A week ago, we wanted to try to see what Ramon Brown could offer with him finally being back able to play. He winds up kind of hurting himself there a little bit in the game last week and so, it opened up the door and you saw Colby come in and make some other plays as well. So, no, the plan is just to kind of continue to utilize the personnel we have and find ways to get those guys involved to where they can be successful.”

On turnover and tackling circuit

“We split up into different groups on the field. Receivers go against the DBs. The tight ends go against the linebackers. The outside backers go against the running backs. And we do every type of tackle known to man, sideline, midline, circle chase. We do, stumble bum, we do two ball drills. We do, stiff arm. It’s a bunch of different circuit drills that we rotate through every week, the start of practice. It’s a seven-to-eight-minute period and it’s one of the things I think that has helped us thus far and I think it’ll continue to help us as we’ve improved as a tackling defense.”

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