Mike Locksley on RB Colby McDonald, getting playmakers involved vs. Ohio St.

Taulia Tagovailoa enters the weekend among the most efficient quarterbacks in the Big Ten while still leading in nearly every major category, but this weekend’s test against Ohio State will provide the Terps with undoubtedly its toughest matchup in the toughest environment of the season.

Maryland’s offense is preparing for an Ohio State defense that sits among the nation’s best in multiple defensive categories. The emergence of Tyliek Williams to go with edge rusher Jack Sawyer will be part of why Maryland’s offensive line will face its undoubted toughest test of the 2023 season, but finding time for Taulia Tagovailoa will be the key for the Terps’ to sustain success on offense.

“He’s done a great job of using his escape techniques and being able to extend the play and make plays off of it,” head coach Mike Locksley said on Thursday. “Obviously we’d love to see them be able to sit back there when we’ve had the opportunity where he sits back there, we’ve got a firm A and A gap with those edge rushes up the field that the perfect pocket is where he’s most dangerous. But I also think that what we did last week with using his legs a little bit more in the passing game as well as the run game is something that can help us.”

More from Locksley on running back Colby McDonald, QB Taulia Tagovailoa, getting his playmakers involved and more.

On RB Colby McDonald

“He is that third back. He’s earned it. He’s worked his butt off. You know, he’s been a little nicked up the last couple of weeks, which he had a DNP last week due to coming off of somewhat of an injury, but Colby is in the mix. And again, all three of those guys are capable as we’ve done here, we’ve recruited and created depth at a lot of the skill positions that we have. And so we’re able to play a lot of players and get a lot of players involved. The one issue that kind of came up a week ago is, we only got 60 plays. Our goal is to try to get 80. And when we lose those 20 plays and a lot of it was, we had some short field opportunity, we scored explosive plays. We scored really fast, which didn’t allow us to sustain drives and when that happens now, all of a sudden your best players don’t get the opportunities. To lose 20 plays out of what we shoot for a game now cuts opportunities for guys like Roman and guys like Colby and guys like Tyrese Chambers. And I think we’ve just got to be able to play fast this week. Try to get back to that 80 play goal of ours and just make sure that the best players in our program are part of these touches that we try to track.”

On getting RB Roman Hemby, TE Corey Dyches more involved

“A lot more treatment, get them healthy. Obviously, as I said in the press conference, this game is not going to be about scheme, it’s gonna be about players making plays. Those guys that you just talked about are guys that we see as playmakers. It’s our job to put them in the best position to make them, but this is one of those games where these guys got to go make these plays. And as coaches, we’ve got to make sure that our best players are involved. If you want to go do something special, it’s usually going to take special players making special plays, and we’ve got to put them in the best position and then let these guys go play.”

On QB escape techniques

“There’s techniques if they’re low shoulder guys. I don’t know if you saw last week, there was a low shoulder rush guy that came from his backside or blindside. He set them and reversed out and got out the pocket pretty cleanly. When they’re up the middle, just a matter of sliding, keeping two hands on the football and pushing up in the pocket. He’s done a really good job in the play-action pass game where when you get to the top of your drop and we call a hard hitch, he hard hitches up underneath the outside rush. It’s all about being at that seven-yard, six-yard area, throwing the ball from that point where he has vision and he has time. So just typical quarterback movement and pocket manipulation techniques that we work on all the time.”

On Taulia’s pocket technique

“He’s always been one of those guys athletically that has been able to extend plays. If you look at him over the last three, four years here, we’ve given up some sacks. This year we haven’t because not just his manipulation, but I think we’ve done a better job in protection contrary to PFF. But it’s a lot of the technique things. I think he has a lot more comfort level. I also think that Josh [Gattis] has done a good job of calling things to get the ball out of his hands, which doesn’t allow the rush to affect the passing game.”

On how OC Josh Gattis has put his personality into Maryland’s offense

“I can’t say that there’s a lot different. I think the rhythm. I feel like we’re a rhythm offense and when we’re in rhythm and a year ago, maybe we were in a lot of personnel groupings where we had shifts and motions and a lot of the things that slow down your ability to get a play off fast. Our goal is to, we have a multi tempo offense where, in a perfect world, when we’re in our base tempo, we want the ball snapped, you know, anywhere between 34 and 25 seconds. When we’re going fast, we want it above 34. And then if we’re in the check with-me mode, we don’t necessarily have a time frame and Josh has done a really good job of mixing the tempos. You saw that coming to play in the Michigan State game where we had to check with me stuff. You see us when we go fast and we are able to get lined up fast and get it snapped. We just think that Lia operates better when he’s in rhythm and the best way to get him in rhythm is to let him get to the line and get the next play and get the next play off. The more he stays in rhythm, the better we seem to operate our system. And I think Josh has done a good job of that piece of from his personality standpoint compared to maybe a year ago where there was a lot more shifts, movements and motions.”

On what ‘check-with-me’ involves

“That’s the touchdown pass [Taulia] threw to Octavian. I don’t know if you saw when we clap and then we look over, that’s called check-with-me. So that’d be like, you say something, I clap, you look over at me and I say, no Varun, I’m not going to tell you everything that’s going on.”

On Big Ten’s future scheduling announced

“I’ve always been a proponent of getting rid of the divisions. From the day I got in this league, I just thought it was a little lopsided and it didn’t allow us as a conference to put our best foot forward or have our best teams always represented because we knocked each other out on certain sides. Obviously the east side of it has done a good job in terms of winning championships. So I think removing those creates maybe a little more parity in the league, which allows more opportunities for people to kind of pop up. As far as the new teams in the league, I’m never a big guy when it comes to scheduling. I’m [going to] play who shows up when they show up and where they show up. They don’t ask us our opinion. I think all I want is to make sure we’re getting the same treatment that everybody else in our league gets and just glad to see we didn’t have all four of the new teams and three trips out west, which kind of has typically been how the new kids on the block has been treated since we’ve joined the league.”

On favorite future Big Ten destination

“Not really, just not really. I mean, it is what it is. I know we’re go out there once a year, I think is the way they set up the scheduling where every team will end up with at least one trip. I think we get to go to the great Northwest up in the state of Oregon to play the Oregon ducks and deal with that next year, man, I got [a] big, big task at hand this week, so we’ll deal with that next year and I’ll see you a week before that game, be able to tell you all about it.”

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