Everything head coach Mike Locksley said heading into Ohio State

Maryland has turned the page to its first ranked opponent of the season as head coach Mike Locksley and his team shift their attention to Ohio State for a Saturday afternoon kickoff.

Maryland has never beaten Ohio State in eight previous matchups, but after taking the Buckeyes the distance at SECU Stadium last season, Locksley knows the Terps are facing their toughest challenge to date.

“It’s going to come down to players making plays and having had the opportunity to compete against Ohio State quite a bit as an assistant at Illinois and then here, whenever we’ve had success against a team like Ohio State, it comes down to the players in your program that you recruit playing to the best of their ability on that day,” Locksley said on Tuesday. “And so, the goal for us as a staff is to get our players prepared to play their best on Saturday and Columbus. And if we do that, we’ll leave it out on the field and we’ll do whatever the repercussions are.”

More from Locksley on Ohio State quarterback Kyle McCord, what jumps out about the Buckeyes’ front seven, what it will take to defeat Ohio State and more.

Opening statement

“Start with some thoughts on Indiana. Obviously on offense, I thought we played about a complete game as we have played all year. Our ability to create scoring opportunities and big plays showed up big in that game and really helped us get off to a fast start. Defensively, it’s the seventh straight game I think that we’ve held an opponent under 20 points or fewer and it’s a testament to the job that our defensive staff, Brian Williams, Lance Thompson, James Thomas, Henry Baker, and Zac Spavital, all those guys on that side of the ball, as well as some of the GAs over there, have really done a good job of putting our players in the best position to have success. Special teams once again, we were able to set up a score. Jeshaun’s big punt return allowed us there early on to get off to the fast start that we wanted to create. And it was by far, in my opinion, the most complete game after reviewing it. Were there things to make corrections off of? There were, but I can tell you that we were trending in the right direction, getting the momentum that we needed to have going into a game like this.

Obviously, Ohio State is up, going to Columbus on Friday and it’s a great opportunity for the Terps football family. Got a lot of respect for Ryan Day, his program, what he’s been able to accomplish there the last three, four years. Very balanced team. I think you look at them on offense, defense, their scoring, they’re stopping people out of the endzone. They had a big win a couple of weeks ago against Notre Dame. Talented players. Marvin Harrison will be the best receiver we will face all year long. He’s really talented, makes big plays, makes the contested catches.

When you look at Ohio State overall, the surprising thing that jumped out to me is just how many fourth and fifth-year starters they have in their starting lineup and typically with a place like Ohio State, guys aren’t around that long. So, to me, it’s a testament to the job that coach [Ryan] Day and his staff have done to create an environment where guys are staying for four or five years, and they’ve got tremendous experience. I’m sure there’ll be a great atmosphere there, it’s their homecoming. And while we got a lot of respect for Ohio State, we also know that this game six on our schedule. It’s not the Super Bowl. As we prepare, as I say each week, it’s Terps versus Terps more than it is about our opponent and I think that will be even moreso evident this week as we prepare because as I told our staff, it’s our job to put our players in the best position with what we put together from a game plan standpoint but ultimately, it’s gonna come down to players making plays. And we’ve got some talented players in our locker room and the time players show up in big time players show up in big-time games and so we were excited about it. We prepare the same week regardless of who our opponent is and so I know our players have embraced that approach. And it’s really helped us especially with the consistency piece that we’ve been working really hard for.

Our game captains this week, we actually have four. We’ve got DJ Glaze, Dante Trader, Quashon Fuller and Taulia Tagovailoa serve as our game captains heading up to Columbus.”

On Ohio State QB Kyle McCord

“I think they’re really balanced. I mean, they’re obviously…he’s gotten better every week that he started and that’s what you expect with a first-year starter at the quarterback position. He’s taken over a system that is a quarterback-friendly system. He has the intangibles. He has the ability to make all the throws, but I thought they’ve really done a really good job of how they’ve brought him along. The run game shows up you know, 32 [TreVeyon Henderson] is a really special player. Henderson kid is as talented a running back that we’ll face and it’s going to be important for us to do a great job of one, trying to make them play one-handed by trying to take away the run game which is something that we’re [a] work in progress still with our defenses being more efficient in our run defense. We have not given up a bunch of yards but some of the efficiency of how people have been able to run the ball, especially on first down, we’ve got to do a better job this week especially against this team.

On Ohio State’s scoring defense and how to attack

“Players have to make plays. They got a good scheme, we studied it. It’s not anything that we haven’t seen thus far. But this is going to be a game that comes down to, as I told our staff again, we’ve got to put a really good plan together of how we want to attack. But ultimately, it’s going to come down to our players making the plays there that are there to be made and it’s a player’s game. As we go into this thing, I think our players need to understand that this is why you come to Maryland. To compete against the best and here’s an opportunity. And what a gauge it will be for our program to see what happens as we go up there to compete.”

On the team’s focus going into each week

“It started four years ago when we came up with, it’s no faceless and nameless opponents. We don’t adjust how we prepare. As I told our coaches, I mean, we don’t need to play the fight song in the locker room this week. This isn’t one of those weeks where gimmicks are going to get the job done. For us, it’s about earning the respect that we feel we deserve. Opportunity to compete against one of the top teams in our conference the last few years and I know our players are really excited about it. We’ve got some talented players in our locker room. And I think it’s all about us, earning the respect that I think our players feel we deserve.”

On how this team is different than in years past

“It is and it starts with that player-driven leadership. As a coach, typically if you have to move the team, if you’re the catalyst to the energy of the team, it’s not always beneficial. And I always say coach-led teams are good teams, but player led teams are great teams. And I think this team gets it. I mean, they’ve been through a lot. These relationships and this bond have been forged over time and through adversity and as well as some good times and I think they enjoy being around each other. I love coaching his group. I mean, because any challenge you put in front of them, they meet it headfirst and they don’t complain, they don’t bitch, they don’t make excuses. And to me, that’s what it’s all about. And I think that’s what’s kind of the sweet, or the secret sauce to what’s happening so far this year.”

On how Maryland’s pass rush has fared through five weeks

“I’ll always say I want more pressure on the quarterback. I think our guys have done a really good job of keeping the quarterback or disrupting the timing. We do some things obviously dropping eight in coverage wise helps sometimes but also the pressure of winning some of the one-on-one battles. Guys like Quashon Fuller and Donnell Brown, Tommy Akingbesote, Taizse Johnson, all those guys have done a really good job of applying the necessary pressure. But what’s going to take, we’re gonna have to find a way to affect the quarterback this week. He gets it out quick and it’s gonna be important for us to do a great job of being pass rush sound, in terms of our lanes and keeping them in the pocket. But as always, you want to see us get more sacks. I’d love to see us be more disruptive. But so far, so good. We’ve been able to affect some of the quarterbacks we played and the last two we played, the ball comes out really quickly so to be able to get sacks. It’s a testament to the backend that the coverage has been taking place.”

On facing another team during homecoming weekend

“I don’t think we took it as a slight. We found out a little late but as I said external things aren’t going to be what motivates us. I’m sure like around here, we don’t pick our homecoming opponent, campus does. It’s just amazing sometimes, you look up on the schedule and you’re on for homecomings. You know, maybe just lucky to draw I guess.”

On what Locksley has seen to compete against the Big Ten elite

“As I said at the game Saturday, when I talk to our team, we talked honestly. We have really honest dialogue. I don’t think anybody is surprised that we are where we are right now. I don’t think anybody didn’t think we could be here and that’s half the battle because it starts with that belief. Me talking about competing for Big Ten championships, as I’ve said before me, I think sometimes it was maybe misconstrued that I’m that we’re here to say we’re ready to win a Big Ten championship, but we’re going to compete. And I think that’s what people are starting to see that our team is competing at a really high level. Now, this week is a good gauge. It’s a hell of an opportunity, but a better gauge as to where we really are as a program. And our players have embraced it. As a staff we’ve embraced it. It’s a great test and we’ll see how we do on Saturday.”

On preparing for most hostile environment to date in 2023 season, whether anything changes in prep

“Nothing that we don’t ordinarily do. When we play on the road against Michigan State, we pump crowd music in on Thursday. That’s why we go indoors to the indoor facility to practice on our Thursdays, and we’ll pump the crowd noise up for where our it affects our quarterback some and it helps us with our communications. But we’re no huddle team. We don’t use a lot of verbiage at the line of scrimmage, so noise really doesn’t affect us. As far as the environment in playing front of that many people, you’ve ever been inside the arena, you don’t really notice. You know, when we were playing in a pandemic to when nobody was in the stands to where we play and there’s 100,000, if your focus is on the right things and where it’s supposed to be, you don’t really notice the crowd. So, I don’t, as I said, the way we prepared, we don’t have to make any adjustments going up into going out to Columbus.”

On how to mentally lock into playing Ohio State

“I think you keep the main thing the main thing, which is, we game plan as coaches, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and we install it. Our players practice these things, balancing the motivation piece. I think the motivation is there. I mean, we’re trying to compete for Big Ten championships and we’re going against one of the top programs in our league, if not in the country. And so, if that doesn’t motivate you, there’s nothing I can say or do that will. I hope that through recruiting and the type of way we develop our players mentally here, that they understand the task at hand, they understand what it’s going to take to go up and have success in Columbus. And it’s not gonna be a whole bunch of gimmicky you know, rah rah rah fiery speeches. It’s gonna come down to big time players and they can make time plays in big time games. Our staff has to do our part to put together the plan and then the players have to do their part as part of the partnership of executing it. And you know what? Go to Columbus, lay it on the line. And if it’s good enough, it is. If it’s not, we’ll get it fixed. And then we’ll get prepared for whoever’s next on our schedule.”

On QB Taulia Tagovailoa’s preparation

“I think any advantages that there are that are there is the advantages of familiarity of every year we play them. I mean, they’re on the eastern half of our league. They’re the one of the top teams in our league. So we prepare, yeah, we utilize some of the things we saw or things that happened a year ago, maybe the last couple of years to see what things worked, what things didn’t. I don’t think it gives any side, whether it’s Lia or Ohio State, an advantage because of the familiarity. I think what it comes down to is how Lia plays this Saturday because what he’s done in the past may have been sufficient but it wasn’t enough. And I think the key now is to do enough and make enough plays to be able to leave there with the type of success we want to have. So I don’t think there’s any advantages gained from the familiarity, but I do think for us, it’s going to be important that Lia goes out and he’s one of those players that I talk about, needs to make the plays that are there to be made to give us a shot.”

On Ohio State’s front seven

“I think the thing that jumps out probably more than anything is they may not statistically have sacks but pressure is just as advantageous as sacks are at times. There’s this big thing going on called dropping eight. We do have quite a bit to where you rush three and there’s eight guys in coverage and then the quarterback is kind of holding the ball and when you rush three you’re very rarely gonna get sacks because you’ve got five guys blocking three. So I think you’ll see that when we studied them on defense, they’re dropping what we call P coverage where they’re dropping eight to cover spaces and a lot of that is to stop RPOs, to stop the down the field vertical passing game, and it affects your statistics. But let’s not get it twisted, 44 and 18, the Sawyer kid…those guys are pass rushers. The interior D line are really talented players. They’re well coached. Larry Johnson does as good a job of developing players and their front four is the best front four we face. Statistically it may not show it with the sacks but they have done a good job of creating pressure. But I also think some of the defensive schematics that they do, maybe have added to their inability to get the stats that you look for but they are effective.”

On P Colton Spangler

“Really well. He’s started sharing the position with Anthony Pecorella at one point. He was the left hash guy because he was left footed. And Anthony Pecorella was the right hash guy because he was right foot. Colton took over the job a year ago, has really done a good job this past weekend. We played Indiana. Number 12 is a talented return guy. Directionally putting the ball where we want it to be, which allows us to kind of cover and cover only 1/3 of the field. His hangtime has been great. He made a big play for us in the Michigan State game so has been a true weapon from the special teams standpoint and has gotten better every year.”

Related Links

Tip times, TV assignments announced for Maryland men’s basketball

Local lineman Jayvon McFadden knows he’s a priority for Maryland (+)

Jahmir Young, pair of Maryland basketball freshmen make preseason top ten lists

Maryland among top schools for ’25 LB Parker Meese after second visit

Maryland QB Taulia Tagovailoa honored by Big Ten, PFF following Indiana win

Where Maryland football lands in week six bowl projections