Maryland Football: Mike Locksley talks Hemby, third down efficiency ahead of Charlotte

In Tuesday’s press conference after the big win against the Buffalo Bulls, Saturday, Maryland football head coach Mike Locksley made it clear that no one believed that the team played the best it could.

With that being said, he was pleased with how efficient the Terps’ running game was and noted there are some things to fix in the passing game. Defense and special teams also stuck out, but Locksley has his sights set on Charlotte and wants the team to put that win in the rear-view mirror.

“I like the way we played defensively. The front seven, for the most part, defended the back end and limited the big plays. Then on special teams being able to create some momentum with some big returns and got a great contribution from our kicking [game],” Locksley said about all three phases. “As with all Mondays, we put that game behind us pretty quickly because of the short turnaround to prepare for our next opponent.”

Terps quarterback Talia Tagovailoa spoke about the interception he threw in the Buffalo game, reiterating Locksley’s emotional maturity stance for the quarterback.

“Yeah, I think I responded better. I think I can always get better at things like that, being a leader and stuff like that. You can’t put your head down, especially in the middle of the game, regardless of the opponent,” he said. “Yeah, obviously I don’t like throwing picks, but [I’m] always trying to bounce back from it. I think after you make a mistake, you’re just so anxious to get back on the field and make up for it. So, I think that’s something I gotta continue to work on. I think I’m surrounded by great people to help me with that. So, I think I did good.”

Getting Jeshaun Jones and Dontay Demus Jr. back has been huge for Tagovailoa and the Terps offense, and he believes week two will provide them with an opportunity to get more comfortable with each other on the field.

Tai Felton is a guy who Tagovailoa wants to get more involved in the offense, and he spoke about what he brings.

“Tai, that’s my boy; he’s a younger brother to me. Our relationship on the field is just like everyone else. He works hard. He’s [still] a young player, so I think getting his opportunities right now is beneficial for him and the team. He brings a lot of speed to the table. He also runs good routes, blocks, and stuff like that. So, looking forward to getting him more playing time and getting the ball in his hands.”

Maryland football will be playing its first road game against the Charlotte 49ers Saturday at 3:30 p.m. eastern. Locksley knows that this will be a test for his team, but it’s one they can pass based on the quality of their preparation.

Locksley was honest about his preference to play this game at home rather than on the road. The Terps also don’t know who the 49ers’ will start at quarterback yet. They are familiar with Texas A&M transfer James Foster, and they could see Xavier Williams, who threw for 201 yards and scored a pair of rushing touchdowns in a 41-24 loss against William & Mary.

The Terps’ secondary could be tested because the 49ers have Biletnikoff Award watch listers in Victor Tucker and Grant Dubose. They also have a Conference USA Freshman of the Year in Elijah Spencer, who tied DuBose with a team-leading six touchdown catches.

Locksley is also aware of the havoc Markees Watts can wreak on an offense.

“The tough thing about this week for us is it’s our first road game together as the 2022 football family. As we all know, it’s always tough to win on the road. Our team is looking forward to the preparation that takes place Monday through Friday to give us a chance on Saturday. [How] we prepared doesn’t change based on the opponent each week.”

It’s what Maryland football does. It’s in the DNA of what they feel they need to do to create a winning product on Saturdays. He said he’s looking forward to practicing Tuesday and Wednesday because those are game plan days. He was happy that the Terps came out of the Buffalo game healthy for the most part.

Locksley mentioned third down once again as a point of emphasis offensively. The Terps can’t be a big little offense week-to-week. What does that mean?

“We hit a big play, and we have two negative plays. To play good on offense, you have to stay ahead of the change, which means staying out of the second and extra-long situations, which puts you in [the] tough third down situations we were in all game long.”

The efficiency Locksley is looking for happened on the first drive. Getting four or five yards, hitting on a big play, and keeping that momentum is important.

The Terps running back room has benefited from redshirting their key players. It showed against Buffalo with the performances of Roman Hemby and Antwain Littleton II.

“I think Roman and all of the young backs, including Antwain Littleton, took full advantage. [During] the redshirt year, we were very strategic in [redshirting] those guys by playing them throughout the course without burning the redshirt. Roman and Antwain had pretty, pretty big bowl games for us. They both scored touchdowns and were efficient running the ball.”

Getting in the weight room with Terps strength coach Ryan Davis and 15 extra practices thanks to the Pinstripe Bowl were huge benefits.

“I think they all benefited from those extra practices. [We went] in the spring, [emphasizing] the run game, especially with the receivers being injured throughout spring ball. I think the timing of our run game and [our comfort level] with the offensive line and all the running backs showed up on Saturday.”

Roman Hemby’s character sticks out to Locksley because he does what he needs to do on and off the field. He handles business in the classroom and takes the initiative in doing the grunt work.

“…He’s a guy that goes to class, and he’s a guy that helps us on special teams. Here, you got your starting tailback running down, covering kicks, and doing all the little dirty work. The little things that a lot of people don’t want to do,” he said about Hemby’s unselfishness. “To me, that’s the DNA of what we’re developing as a team, a bunch of guys that are like Roman Hemby when it comes to the unselfishness that comes along with putting the team before yourself. I think Roman is an exemplary example of what we want all of our team to be like, and we’re starting to get there.”

One of the guys that block for him, Delmar “DJ” Glaze, is someone Locksley has high hopes for on an already talented and experienced offensive line.

“…DJ’s a guy that’s played a lot of football for us as a young player and has a bright future. I see him on the same trajectory that both our other tackles, Spencer [Anderson], and Jaelyn [Duncan], took. With him, maybe a little ahead of schedule, especially with how much he’s been able to play and play at a high level.”

This will be a homecoming game for Glaze since he’s from Charlotte. He’s excited to come home, see his family, and is still trying to find out how many tickets he can get for the game.

As far as on-the-field performance is concerned, Glaze believes that the offensive line was pleased with how they played against Buffalo. He understands that there is always room for improvement, and the offense has to get the penalties corrected.

Glaze noted repetition as the main teaching tool when asked how he passes down knowledge to the younger offensive linemen about the college game.

“Those guys are definitely sound. We got Andre Roye Jr., who’s behind me. I work with him. I see him come in, and he’s got aggressive footwork. So, every day, If we continue to work at it, I feel like, in no time, we’ll see a big change with our group and whatever other group. It’s not going to be a drop-off when they come in the game because we all [constantly work on the same thing].”

Glaze also spoke on the offensive line’s chemistry and how their bond solidifies it.

“A lot of times. I know what Spencer is about to do. Mason [Lunsford] knows what Jaelyn’s about to do. So, it’s like being around so long; we [already have that bond]. Sometimes on the field, like we hear the play and we’re like, all right, we are going to do this. We don’t even have to say anything. We go. So Being around each other, we got that bond where we can line up and play our heart out. If I see something going on over here, I can be like, hey, let’s go. They can say the same to me. That bond helps us do that.”

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