Consistency is top of mind for Maryland football head coach Mike Locksley vs. No. 4 Michigan

The door is closed on Maryland football’s non-conference schedule. The Terps’ first test in conference play is the reigning defending Big Ten champion Michigan Wolverines, who have scored 50 or more points in their first three games.

Michigan is 8-1 all-time in the matchup and beat the Terps 59-18 last season. Maryland head coach Mike Locksley sees Saturday as an opportunity to see where the Terps fit in the Big Ten hierarchy.

“If you don’t get excited about that opportunity, that’s why you come to Maryland. To have this opportunity to play really good teams like Michigan. They set the standard for our league and set the bar. And as we always talk about trying to close the gap on teams like that this year forwards us an opportunity to see where we fit.”

Locksley believes every game has the same value.

“Like an equation, they all have the same value. Beating a Michigan doesn’t have more value in terms of our team than winning a game against another Big Ten opponent, because we really don’t focus a lot on the opponent,” Locksley told the media. “I’ll continue to say this. Whatever happens on Saturday, I’d say 90 percent of it’s going to be due to what we do and not necessarily what Michigan does to us.”

As he talked to the team, he used the great analogy of eating grandma’s macaroni and cheese. It’s consistent every time. Christmas, Thanksgiving, or Sunday dinner. It doesn’t matter.

“Who we play doesn’t change. It’s the consistency of how we prepare to play, which is what makes grandma’s macaroni cheese good on Christmas day or a regular Sunday after church. I’ve tried to get us out of this mentality of riding a wave of emotions.”

In his mind, there’s no need to “get up” for a particular ranked opponent or another conference opponent because the team doesn’t prepare differently for Charlotte than they would for Ohio State, Michigan, or SMU.

“We don’t go in and say, Hey, it’s Michigan week. Let’s all of a sudden ramp up our intensity because that’s just not how you go about building it winning program. That’s, again, something I learned along the way from some good experiences down in Alabama. When you learn to prepare consistently the right way. The product on Saturday tends to be really consistent.”

Locksley’s not going to overreact to mistakes

Maryland’s miscues from Saturday’s win were a quick topic during Tuesday’s press conference, and he admitted he took note of the commentary to show his team this week. “I played the video and let them see what people thought of our program. As a parent, you send your kid to school, and they have a foundation of how you raise them. Sometimes they don’t act in character. What do you do? Kick ’em out your house, do you punish ’em? We handle punishments, and we deal with it inside out.” Relating punishments to raising kids, Locksley admitted this was handled internally to clean up leading into Michigan. “I’ve got to get them to understand that the name on the front of the jersey represents us and we’ve got to continue to work to do better.”

While Maryland leads the Big Ten with 31 penalties through three games, Michigan sits tied for second in the country with just eight penalties thus far. Execution and self-inflicted wounds have been the Achilles heel for Maryland in conference play over the years and with a veteran-heavy team, Locksley and his staff are tasked with trimming down from a season-high 15 penalties in week three.

Jaishawn Barham impact 

Just two freshmen have started at least one game for Maryland this fall and one is linebacker Jaishawn Barham, who was praised yet again on Tuesday. “Minus the 15-yard penalty where I had to bench ’em for pretty much the whole second half, I thought that he’s played really well. Not to knock him for the penalty, because he’s a young player. As I said, a lot of young kids in today’s society made a mistake here and there. His play as a football player, a big sack early in the game; he’s played a lot of snaps for a true freshman, and has a veteran feel for the game.”

The former St. Frances and DeMatha star sits second on the team with 16 tackles while adding a sack and pass breakup through three games. Maryland returned several veterans with Fa’Najae Gotay, Gereme Spraggins, Ahmad McCullough, and Ruben Hyppolite leading the way but Barham has made his presence felt in a short amount of time. “The interception that Beau Brade got, he [Barham] was the guy that got underneath it, got the ball tipped. So, I’m really pleased with his football production. I’m pleased with how he approaches the game. He’s [come] in here with the mentality to play early, and he’s been a very productive player for us,” Locksley added.

Kickers matter and Locksley knows it

Chad Ryland was the lone Terp that Locksley singled out following both scrimmages during fall camp and so far, he’s a perfect three-for-three to start the season. With a long of 45 yards and two makes from at least 40 yards out, Locksley gave credit to Maryland’s former assistant in landing the preseason All-Big Ten selection.

“We’ve talked about the addition of Chad and, that was coach Z’s [Ron Zook] last present that he gave to me before he left to join the XFL, was recruiting Chad out of the transfer portal,” he added. “By far probably one of the more meaningful gets out of the transfer portal for us and not. His ability to kick, but if you’ve watched him on how he’s integrated into a new football family, he’s already one of the guys that show tremendous leadership. He’s part of our leadership council. He’s definitely a weapon.

Ryland also knocked through his 19th and 20th consecutive made field goal in Saturday’s win, but another bonus he’s brought to his unit is the power on kickoffs. Once a sore spot for Maryland’s special teams last season, the coverage unit hasn’t been tested much with Ryland drawing more touchbacks. “Do you know how good it feels? I go, and I shake his hand after every kick through the end zone. I said, man, this sure feels good, because I’m not holding my breath with the ball being returned and having to get the ball tackled. He’s shown consistency when we want to kick the ball through [the uprights] on field goals [too].”

Dante Trader and Beau Brade solidify back end 

Beau Brade almost came down with an early interception against SMU, but patience was a virtue as he eventually reeled in an interception and the first takeaway of the season. He leads Maryland’s defense with both 14 solo and 27 total tackles so far while also registering one tackle for loss and three pass breakups. Brade became the first Terp to register 15 tackles since Chance Campbell did so against Northwestern in the 2020 season opener. While Brade has flashed in the box through non-conference play, Dante Trader has leveraged his range and reeled in the second interception for Maryland’s defense last Saturday.

“I think those two guys are both byproducts have what we try to do around here,” Locksley said of his starting tandem. “They play a lot of football as freshmen. I told somebody, I thought back to last year in the Illinois game where Dante was on the field [during] that last drive to help us win the game. To play young players in meaningful moments and games like that; the price is invaluable to the development of your team as a whole.”

The two in-state products played ample snaps last season behind Nick Cross and Jordan Mosley, but have shown strides of potential in Maryland’s secondary. “Both Beau and Dante played football around here from the time they stepped on campus, and we’ve benefited from it this year because now they’re thrusting to starting positions or leadership roles. It’s not like they’re breaking themselves in. So we’re going to continue to try to do that where we can develop our roster and, injuries are part of the game. We have to have guys ready to step in and play. Both those guys are Testament to just how we develop our team.”

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