Maryland Football Head Coach Mike Locksley Sheds Light on Buffalo, Depth Chart

In preparation for Maryland football’s season opener against the Buffalo Bulls of the Mid-American Conference Saturday, Sept. 3, head coach Mike Locksley shared a nugget of wisdom from Nick Saban.

“…One of the things I learned working under coach Saban is that if you can’t hit the curve ball, you’re gonna see a curve ball,” he said.

Locksley understands that the passing game is a strength for the Terps this year with the plethora of weapons at their disposal. That’s why establishing the run was the focus in camp.

“That’s going to be really, really important for us. If you want to win in the Big Ten, you have to be able to run the football. We’ve got an experienced group, as I’ve said before.”

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He praised the offensive line for the work they’ve done this offseason to improve. He included tight ends Corey Dyches and CJ Dippre in that as well.

“The most improved unit on our team is our offensive line. With Corey Dyches’ development and CJ Dippre, we feel we’ve got two tight ends that will allow us to line up and balance people. I like our young running backs [and] the power they run [with] and the different skill sets they all bring.”

Redshirt senior right guard Spencer Anderson believes the Terps could have a 1,000-yard rusher in their running back room this season.

“We have six returning guys coming back on the line. I know in our room specifically; we have goals that we want to set, and I think we have running backs [good enough] to get us a 1,000-yard rusher. I think just coming out, covering people up, and letting the backs do what they do.”

He understands that Buffalo’s front seven is nothing to scoff at, with Daymond Williams leading Buffalo’s defensive line and All-MAC linebacker James Patterson as the heart and soul of their defense.

Locksley was very proud of how well the defense has come along in training camp practices and scrimmages this offseason.

“I like the way we ran the ball doing training camp and then on the defensive side of the ball, [I] was really, really encouraged by how we tackled. One of the things − when you talk about limiting big plays, the two areas you do that most in is tackling—limiting your missed tackles. Also, you’re missed assignments because that’s where the big plays come into play,” he said. “So, our defense has done a tremendous job of getting the ball on the ground throughout the scrimmage situations we’ve had. And I like the way we tackle the space. Those two things jump out for me coming out of training camp.”

Junior linebacker Ruben Hyppolite II’s presence on the defense has made an impact, and Locksley gave him his flowers.

“He’s a guy that from the day he walked on campus, midyear just jumped out because of the type of work ethic he has. Well, now I see him becoming a little more vocal or a lot more vocal where he is leading across the board, not just the defensive players, but our offensive players. So, I’m starting to see him become more of a vocal leader that has more of a positive impact, not just on the defense, but our entire team.”

Locksley pointed out that most of Ruben’s growth came from his positive effect on his teammates. Hyppolite II is a very quiet guy that goes about his business and leads by example.

“So, it’s my job to make sure that I lead the group of guys that I take the field with on all three phases, offense, and special teams,” Hyppolite said about his role as a third-year linebacker. “I feel like that’s my role on the team now. Going into year three, people look to me for answers; they look to me as a voice of the team. I’m a big part of the team, and that’s my role.”

The Terps’ head coach sees similarities between Hyppolite II and freshman Jaishawn Barham who has been turning heads in camp and gaining freshman all-American recognition.

“With a guy like Jaishawn Barham, he has some of the Ruben characteristics we saw him coming in. A quiet guy who picked up things easy. He has a body made, ready. One of those guys [who] walks in the door and looks like he should have been here already. We’re excited to see how he plays, and that’s what’s great about having an opening game as we get to see what he is and what he can do to help our team.”

Locksley also wants to see big things from his quarterback, Taulia Tagovailoa. A young man who he’s known since Tagovailoa was a sophomore in high school before his family moved to Birmingham, Alabama, from Hawaii.

Locksley loves Tagovailoa’s consistency and described him as an emotional player who wears them on his sleeve with body language. While this can be seen as a negative, Locksley applauded his quarterback for his continued growth in mindset. He wants him to remain even keel in every situation.

“I see him maturing to the point where he is moving through the bad things that happen quicker than he has maybe in the past, which is going to be important. That position he plays, he has the ball, every single play. So, there will be bad. Adversity happened. And for us, it’s how quickly he [can] get past that.”

The quarterback’s maturity also shows in giving back to his guys, the offensive line. They are the most important position group in football, after all.

“I think it’s important for me to just do that with the whole team, mostly my offensive line, just because they sacrifice their bodies not only for me but running backs, the receivers, and the team. Without them, there’s no me; there are no receivers. My relationship with the offensive line has always been strong, always been good. I think fall camp was probably the best thing that kind of happened to us last year and this past fall camp, just because we’re always with each other, you know, there’s playing pool, we’re hanging out in the room and stuff like that.”

Tagovailoa’s humility is genuine, 100 percent.

What does he think of the offense’s growth?

“I think our offense as a whole has shown a lot of growth in our understanding of the game and understanding of the playbook. Guys that played last year, our receivers and offensive line, they’re starting to recognize coverages. I think that’s something that helps us figure out where the defense is going, stuff like that.”

Some other notable takeaways from the Buffalo presser were Hyppolite II’s excitement that Dontay Demus is back and healthy for the Terps. He noted that Demus’ personality spreads throughout the program. The team feeds off of his positive energy on and off the field.

Maryland fans can see the Terps take on the Bulls at noon Saturday on the Big Ten Network.

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