Mike Locksley on Maryland’s health after bye, rebounding from Illinois, Northwestern prep

Maryland football is coming off its worst showing of the season with multiple players sidelined heading into the bye week. With an extra week of rest, head coach Mike Locksley noted that Maryland has “quite a few guys back” as the Terps turn the page to Northwestern.

“I know Tarheeb Still has been out for the last I want to say three weeks, two games maybe. We expect him to be back,” Locksley said on Tuesday.

Starting guard Corey Bullock is expected back as the offensive line gets a key piece back to close out conference play, while second-year running back Ramon Brown is also expected to make his season debut this weekend after being sidelined for the first half of the season. “We expect Ramon to create, to have some opportunities this week,” Locksley added.

“Dante Trader [Jr.] has been practicing this week. Corey Dyches, who missed a week ago, is back. We have most of our guys back healthy, ready to go. And like I said, the bye week couldn’t have come at a better time. [I] would have loved to enter the bye week with a little better feeling than what we have now. We’ve gone three weeks if you count the bye week without having success. As I told our team, it’s important to try to flush that toilet that’s been sitting there for three weeks.”

More from Locksley on Kevin Sumlin’s status, rebounding from Illinois and prepping for Northwestern:

Opening statement

“Had a really good bye week. Productive practices last week when we went, was able to get our energy levels back up. One of the things that I said to our team is, to get to where we were in that point of the season with not having breaks from the time, we started August 1st took a lot of energy.

And I used the analogy of the NASCAR and the pit stop and the importance of that pit stop of refueling the tank, changing the tires, making whatever adjustments we need to make and it couldn’t have come at a better time for us because I thought we had a really good three days of the fundamental piece, which whenever we do have these bye weeks, we obviously look at things we need to improve upon, things we’re doing well, but also going back to the fundamentals of the game, which sometimes get lost when you start game planning and I felt like we come out of it a better team because of the focus on the fundamentals. But also, being able to have Monday off for our players where we just met and then getting off Friday, Saturday and then coming back in Sunday just for a meeting gave us an extra three to four days of building up our energy because focus takes a ton of energy, and as we all know as adults, energy is not unlimited. And so, the bye week couldn’t have come at a better time.”

On co-OC/TE coach Kevin Sumlin’s status

“We’re aware of the charges. It’s disappointing. As coaches, we have to set the example and model the behavior that we want [for] our players. And we take it very seriously. At the same time, I will also say he’s part of our football family and we’re going to support Kevin [Sumlin]. To me, it’s a personnel issue that we’ll let the personnel and our, kind of what we’ve done in the past kind of dictate how things play out.”

On whether Sumlin is with the team 

“He is not.”

On whether Sumlin will return this season

“It’s a personnel decision. We’ve handled these situations athletically in the past, and I think that we’ll follow those same suits. But by [it] being a personnel matter, not going to get into the weeds with it.”

On whether Sumlin faces disciplinary action

“Of course.”

On what Sumlin’s potential punishment may be

“It’s a personnel issue. I’m not going to get into the weeds with it. So, you can ask me a million different ways. In personnel issues, I don’t put out what we do to our players. I don’t talk about what we do with our coaches. It’s a personnel matter. It’ll be handled. If you look at the track record of what we’ve done in the past, you can probably have an idea of what will take place.”

On LB Neeo Avery 

“No, I have no update on it. That’s a medical deal. I don’t get into the medical a lot. When they tell me he’s available. I don’t know if you know it here, but football is separated from medical. All the medical decisions are made by our doctors, our trainers. When they tell me people can play, I start preparing for them to be able to play.”

On Illinois loss, upcoming Northwestern game

“It also allowed us to get much healthier. The Illinois game exposed us with some of the key players not being there and excited to get some of these guys back and back healthy. We talked yesterday about kind of hitting the reset button. We were able to steal two practices a week ago as we prepare for Northwestern, a very dangerous team. They’ve got their issues and turmoil that’s going on, but the way that team has responded to their interim coach and to the coaches, they’re a 3-4 team that I’m sure when they look at the schedule, they see this as a game that they have to have. And so, I expect to get their best when we head up to Chicago.”

“We’re 5-2 with a lot of football left to still be played and a lot of goals still in front of us, which is the exciting part for us. Northwestern has our attention. I think what happened at Illinois, the silver lining for us is that you know what, we have to show up and play to our standard because just showing up is not enough. But playing to the standard, playing winning football, those are going to be really important as we head to Chicago. It’s tough to win on the road in the Big Ten and so I know going to Chicago for our team, again, we’ve got to make sure we focus on us. A lot of the times, as I told you, it’s not the opponent we face, it’s more what we do and it’s going to be even more important, when you go on the road and to do the necessary things to come out with the necessary sixth win for us but I expect to have a great week of preparation, which started [Monday]. [I] was pleased with the way that went. Our game captains obviously for this week will be Corey Dyches, Aric Harris, Fa’Najae Gotay.”

On concerns facing Northwestern WR Bryce Kirtz, limiting ‘Cats offense

“I think a big play threat every time he touches the ball. A guy that we’ve got to do a really good job and, he has our attention. But I think as a whole, when you look at those guys offensively, they know who they are. I think the way that we have to approach it is we’ve got to start with stopping the run first and foremost. And if you look at the quarterback that started the last game, he’s the guy that started the game against us a year ago and gave us fits with the QB scrambles and the design quarterback runs. And so, when I talk about stopping the run, it’s not just the running backs, but it’s also the quarterbacks and doing our part of making sure that we have the correct gap control. But I also think one of the things that showed up when you evaluate the first half of our season is we’ve given us some explosive plays that weren’t competitive explosive plays. I mean plays where it looks as if we’ve blown coverage because of bad eye discipline and that’s something that we’ve worked really hard [on] because I can tell you that the teams that have hurt us with the explosive [plays] have come off of taking advantage of our inability to play with great eye discipline on the backend. And that’s going to be really necessary for us to come away with the win up in Chicago, playing really good eye discipline defense on the backend while concentrating our efforts to stop the run.”

On whether anything changed in practices leading up to Illinois game

“The past doesn’t define our present.”

On avoiding sluggish start vs. Northwestern

“Put together openers on the offensive side of the ball that we can get executed. Defensively, making sure that we’re simple early to have an idea of how they want to attack us. As I said, get back to playing with the eye discipline. A lot of times when we’ve gotten hurt on defense, it hasn’t become a structure issue. It’s been an eye discipline or a gap discipline issue. We went back to the basics of how we do things, maybe reinstall some of the things that we haven’t been doing the way we want to get it done. Offensively, not starting sluggish starts with again, being efficient on 1st-and-10, doing the things that our quarterback can get executed and then going out and executing at a high level.”

On establishing offensive rhythm vs. Northwestern

“I don’t want to give away all of our sweet sauce, the stuff that we’re going to do this week, but getting back into rhythm is what I call doing what your players can get executed, calling the plays that fit the personnel we have. I’m a big believer in, you don’t ask your players to do things that they don’t do well until you build up the skill to be able to do them well. And to me, getting back in the rhythm on offense usually starts with the quarterback and doing the things that he can get executed at a high level. And then the next piece is accentuating the playmakers and making sure that they’re involved in the offense while also designing ways to get your best players opportunities and touches. And so, to me, getting back in the rhythm is those things. It’s playing fast. It’s being efficient on 1st-and-10, which allows us to stay on track. Those are all the things we consider being in rhythm.”

On creating balance of efficiency and explosiveness on offense

“I like both. I like to be efficient and explosive and efficient to me is staying on track. On first down, being able to be in the 3rd-and-mediums. When you look at when we’ve been good on offense in games, it’s usually a good 1st-and-10 play where we’re in 2nd-and-medium. The 3rd-and-mediums where we have the ability to run, pass, take advantage of the skill we have. So, I like to do both, be efficient as well as continue to be explosive because as I’ve talked about here, the winning formula is creating explosives.”

On LB Donnell Brown’s versatility

“I’m glad to see that out of Donnell because when we brought him here, that was what we expected out of him. And he’s one of those guys that’s a high motor, high effort guy. He made plays earlier in the year in the passing game where we dropped him into coverage. But now I think you’re starting to see the skill that we expected, and he’s become a guy that people have to gameplan against because he has been disruptive and has created chaos plays with the sacks and the tackles for losses, and we hope to continue to build with that with Donnell.”

On Donnell Brown’s jump from FCS to Big Ten

“No, if we’ve recruited him here, there’s no surprise on our part that we’ve done our homework. And I think we have a track record that our evaluation process works out pretty well for us, so he’s what we expected. I’m glad to see when you recruit a guy that you get that type of production to show like, hey, we kind of knew what we were talking about. He’s a guy that, yeah, he played on the FCS level, but as I found, there’s a ton of players that played FCS football that have the ability as they develop. They may be late bloomers, things come a little later in their career for them. And we’ve gotten a lot of help from a couple of FCS players and Corey Bullock, who’s the other guy who’s back, as well as a Donnell Brown, that both came from that level, and they both have exceeded the expectations.”

On Maryland’s fewest rushing attempts in the Big Ten

“We want to run and pass. As I’ve said in this quite a few [times] for the last few years, how we run and throw and how many times is dictated based on what the defensive structure allows us to do. If you look at our efficiency, we’re probably a little more efficient in the passing game than we are in a running game. So, I will lean on doing the things that are giving us an opportunity to have success, but we never go into a game to say we want to have 50% run, 50% pass. We have to develop our team to be able to do both really well, so if you do your research and figure out that that plays a part in the winning, let me know because I don’t. I’m being real with this so if rush attempts is a key to winning, I’m going to run the ball more.”

On Michigan’s news regarding sign stealing within the program

“I was surprised because I mean, I didn’t know anything about it. Didn’t bother me. It goes on in college football. Now, maybe not as elaborate as maybe that. But I’m saying, we’re a team that’s a no huddle team. So, we signal a lot. We have all types of anti-spying techniques where we switch who’s the lead signal guy, who has what. It’s not anything that I knew about. [I] don’t know if it had any effect in anything we’ve done.”

On whether Maryland will alter calls, signals vs. Michigan

“We have to. We’d have to decide whether we want to wristband things, whether we change our signals based on if someone has them. Those things do come into play, but I’m more concerned about Northwestern than I am worrying about Michigan down the road.”

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