Maryland football head coach Mike Locksley sheds light on player development

With the Purdue game approaching, Mike Locksley took time during his weekly presser on Tuesday to talk about the development of several players that are making an impact for Maryland football.

Antwain Littleton has played a major role for the Terps in the running game, and he’s taken advantage of every opportunity he’s been given. He has seen the endzone six times in as many games this season which is the longest streak in the nation.

Locksley has been open about how Littleton worked on his body to get to where he is now. There is still room for improvement, and Locksley saw that on Littleton’s goal line play against Michigan State, where he was stopped on consecutive plays.

“It’s the way he practices and prepares. He’s put himself in a position with his conditioning level the weight loss. The way he runs, he’s a load; as I said on Saturday, [I] was disappointed that he ran out of gas there on the goal line and would’ve loved to see him stay on his feet and plow through and put one in. I’m sure he’ll put that in his toolbox to understand that every play is in up and over.”

Using his size on the goal line is something Locksley wants to see Littleton do. His success is another indicator of the importance of recruiting talent in your backyard.

“I think it’s just he’s one of those guys we’ve known since he was a seventh or eighth grader. He’s another one of these local products that, you know, necessarily we got in on early and just continued to feed him the Maryland brand. It’s great when you see guys like him, Rakim [Jarrett], and some of the other players from this surrounding community come here and have the type of success [they’re] having. Hopefully, it’s inviting others to join.”

Littleton has run for 208 yards, six touchdowns, and averages 5.5 yards per carry because of the Maryland football offensive line. Senior Johari Branch, who moved to the center position this season, is a key piece in the O-line’s success.

“One of our smartest old linemen, a guy that really knows our system very well. We always talk about being strong down the middle, quarterback center, nose guard, Mike, linebacker, free safety. And by far, he’s the guy [who] is the glue for us up front. Gets us in the right calls, gets us on the right people for the most part,” Locksley said about what Branch does for the team.

Locksley likes the mean streak Branch has in him that shows up in pivotal situations.

“He’s the bully of the group. He doesn’t take anybody’s stuff. He will fight you and get after people during the course of a game and not just the other team, but if he doesn’t feel his teammates are holding up their into the bargain, he’s not afraid to step out and become one of those leaders that we’ve been trying to develop with the player led culture, and he’s one of those guys that we count on for that.”

When players get injured, guys have to step. Freshman defensive back Gavin Gibson had to do just that the last month after Glendon Miller was injured several weeks ago.

“Yeah, Gavin’s one of those guys; he came in as a corner, can play nickel, really versatile young player. I think the biggest thing that jumps out is that it’s like a baby in the crib. When you throw a snake in there, they don’t really know that it’s a snake, so they play with it.”

Locksley admires the free reign that Gibson plays with because he’s not hampered by thoughts of getting beat on plays or missing tackles.

“He just goes out and plays. To me, that’s the genesis of how I want us all to play. Just not afraid to fail, not afraid to make mistakes. When you play young players, that’s what we try to do. Develop these young guys; you get that type of energy. So, I love seeing 26 out there. The way he plays, he doesn’t always do it right. He makes mistakes, but he just plays. And to me, he’ll be better for it in the years to come.”

Maryland football will take on the Purdue Boilermakers Saturday, October 8, at noon eastern time. The game can be seen on the Big Ten Network.

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