Maryland will turn the page to conference play this weekend as they prepare for the first road game of the season, but before they head north to face the Spartans, head coach Mike Locksley opened Tuesday’s press conference shouting out the Terps’ students through the first three weeks.
“Before we kind of turn the page on last week, I definitely want to shout out our students section. These past three home games, we’ve had the opportunity to be here in The Shell. They’ve really come out full force and their energy, our players have fed off the energy that they bring in and we hope as always, that they continue to show up and show out and make that a great environment for us when we return home in a couple of weeks,” Locksley said on Tuesday.
Beau Brade, who missed last week’s game with an injury, was announced as one of three captains as he returns this weekend. Brade joins quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa and linebacker Sean Greeley as game captains this week.
Now, Maryland will prepare for a Michigan State team fresh off official news that Mel Tucker has been fired as head coach and days removed from a humbling 41-7 loss to Washington at home.
“Now our focus is on Michigan State. First road test, first opportunity for us as a football family to hit the road together. We made it through our non-conference schedule. We did what was necessary, but we also realized that the things we did in those three games aren’t sufficient because we haven’t, we still are a work in progress and still have some things to get cleaned up, which I know we will. Obviously when you go on the road to a place like Michigan State, you have to prepare your team. Their student section sits right behind your bench. They’re loud, they’re obnoxious at times. And I can tell you that it’s a tough environment to go in and play for the first opportunity for a bunch of the players that are new to our program.”
Maryland knows this weekend’s game against the Spartans won’t be a normal matchup with the Michigan State program battling turmoil surrounding Tucker’s sudden firing.
“Obviously they’ve lost their head coach and when you watch tape, as I told them, what you saw against Washington will not be the team that shows up Saturday and I’ve been a part of a coaching change in the middle of the season when I took over for Randy Edsall. We were fortunate because we had a bye week, and it gave us a week to kind of get it out our system with those kids unfortunately didn’t have an opportunity to get it out their system or flush. It probably showed because the tape before that game, they’re the same Michigan State team.”
Maryland will look to avoid a third consecutive slow start after falling behind 14-0 in the opening minutes of the last two games. Head coach Mike Locksley is looking to spark a change by reinserting a portion into the daily practice schedule.
“We track our guys in terms of the analytics of their player loads. And for the last couple of weeks, because we had two straight games, we had a Saturday late game and a Friday early game, we had to cut some things out of practice and when we cut out of practices, we cut our good-on-good out. And when you go good-on-good, that’s where you really get the speed of what a game is like and one of the things that the last two weeks, I’ve cut practice down where I’ve removed the good-on-good but we continue to do the stuff versus our development team or developmental team and what happens, the developmental team doesn’t always finish. They don’t always get off blocks, they kind of go through the motions and sometimes they become, we call them scout dummies where they just stand there and it’s I blocked you and they stopped. Well, what happens is and what I’ve kind of think is my philosophy is that what’s happened to us is that we don’t adjust to the speed of it until we get punched in the mouth after the first quarter and now, we understand it. And so, what I’ve done is I’ve reinstituted the good-on-good periods in our practice where we’ll get the speed of what it looks like or should look like and then again, we have to make the point of emphasis that the guys that are on that developmental squad, the guys that wear the black jerseys, it’s important.”
More from Locksley on the running back room, what sticks out about the Spartans and more on the players.
“We really felt like again, we did some good things in the non-conference schedule, but it’s a whole new ballgame when you enter conference play and it’ll be a very challenging game for us on the road against a team coming off of a tough loss, dealing with adversity as a program. And having been a part of some of those teams, as I told our team, what we saw on tape a week ago will not be the team we face on Saturday because now they’ll have a little more time now to kind of galvanize. I would expect that they’ll do a tremendous job of coming together. We’ve seen that here in our program before when a team comes together, and they take on that us against the world mentality. And so, we expect to get their best on Saturday.
As I told our team, championship teams don’t wait till they get punched in the mouth to respond. That’s something we’ve kind of done the last couple of weeks and as I’ve said before, I’ve seen enough proof that we’re a different team when it comes to facing adversity and I like to see us get back to our standard of starting fast and finishing strong, so that’s our expectation going into Saturday. The captains for this week are Taulia Tagovailoa, Sean Greeley and Beau Brade will serve as our game capitals heading up to East Lansing.”
“That’s the irony of it. You can put up numbers and create big plays and still not necessarily execute at a high level and that’s the part where as a play caller in my past, that when you get your best players the ball, they usually make plays for you. But I can tell you on offense it has not been as clean as maybe those stats suggest. Getting our guys lined up, it’s been a chore…we went back, watched the tape, the ball was in the middle of the field a lot this game this past week, which is not normal, and it affected how we get lined up to get lined up quick. So, we’ve had to get that corrected, but we got playmakers on our offensive side of the ball which allows us to create these explosives but the offense has not been as clean as myself, Josh [Gattis] or anybody on the offensive side would like to see us from an execution level. But we are making big plays and we understand that big plays now probably play as much a role as anything in terms of wins and losses. Teams that generate explosives and minimize them typically win games.”
“Obviously we always emphasize it. One of the things that you know, as I went back and evaluated it, the past two weeks and I’ll get into [it]. I’ll bore you guys but, we track our guys in terms of the analytics of their player loads. And for the last couple of weeks, because we had two straight games, we had a Saturday late game and a Friday early game, we had to cut some things out of practice and when we cut out of practices, we cut our good-on-good out. And when you go good-on-good, that’s where you really get the speed of what a game is like and one of the things that the last two weeks, I’ve cut practice down where I’ve removed the good-on-good but we continue to do the stuff versus our development team or developmental team and what happens, the developmental team doesn’t always finish. They don’t always get off blocks, they kind of go through the motions and sometimes they become, we call them scout dummies where they just stand there and it’s I blocked you and they stopped. Well, what happens is and what I’ve kind of think is my philosophy is that what’s happened to us is that we don’t adjust to the speed of it until we get punched in the mouth after the first quarter and now, we understand it. And so, what I’ve done is I’ve reinstituted the good-on-good periods in our practice where we’ll get the speed of what it looks like or should look like and then again, we have to make the point of emphasis that the guys that are on that developmental squad, the guys that wear the black jerseys, it’s important. Their role is to get us ready to play fast, and we’ve got talented players over there, but they just have to learn how to be a good scout player for us to give us the look that we’re going to need and so I’m hoping getting back to getting the speed of it in practice allows us to not have that adjustment because we haven’t been a team in the past that has started out slow. We’ve traditionally on offense, been a fast start team and then defensively, we’ve given up some yards, but we’ve given up some explosive plays off of some of what I call trick type plays, the flea flicker. And you can expect those early in people scripts against this because we’ve given up those plays and once you put it on tape, people will continue to attack. So, to me, I think us going back to getting the good-on-good periods back in our practice hopefully will give us the speed that we need to be able to start fast and not have that adjustment period. I hope.”
“There’s not as much about the opponent. Like I always say it’s not the opponent, it’s us versus us. And as you can see the things, we need to do to improve our fast start really has nothing to do with our opponent. And so, we’re out of non-conference play and into conference play, but the standard for how we practice and what we do is going to be more important than the emphasis of conference play because I don’t want us to differentiate between our opponents. Our opponents are faceless and nameless and it’s going to be more what we do, how we get ready, how we prepare. And obviously more importantly, it’s our first road trip with over 30 guys that have never traveled with us before, that have never been to this environment. I had a bunch of them raise their hand and have been up to East Lansing because to prepare our team I talked about just even the students section, being right behind our bench and it’s a tight sideline. I mean, they’ve got some comedians in their students sections and if you get caught up dealing with them, it affects what’s going on on the field. So, we’ve got to prepare them for that environment more than anything.”
“He’s been a little nicked up, but Tyrese is one of those guys that when he gets his opportunities, he usually makes plays for us. Came up with a big third-down catch there Saturday. He’s been dealing with a lower leg injury that’s kind of held him back a little bit, but I think he’s finally back full speed and he’s in the back in the right space mentally where I’m excited to see him back to the old Tyrese. Whenever his number was called and practices and scrimmages, he made plays and so long season, and we need to get him going.”
“No, it’s their job to keep us happy.”
“Heeb is a guy that, he almost like it reminds me when I was at Bama, and I had Jerry Jeudy and [Henry] Ruggs and [Devonta Smith] and Smitty kind of was the forgotten guy because the other guys turned pro earlier. Heeb was a guy that we sent his stuff into the NFL, and he had a draftable grade, but I don’t think it was where he would have liked to see it. But the people in our program know that he was as much a catalyst. We played him in the slot most of his career because of having those other two and the slot corner position is one of, it’s a tough cover because you’re going against their best guy, and you’ve got the whole field to cover them. And I think over the last three years, he’s performed at a really high level for us and so just as much as getting Jeshaun [Jones] back here, to have Tarheeb come back for his senior year was a huge, huge deal for us. And now what I’m starting to see is the leadership out of him in terms of just taking on the role of developing those younger players that are behind him, and there’s no doubt that he came up with some huge plays in the game Saturday. These are plays he’s capable of making. As I’ve said, he’s a guy that we could very easily play on offense as a receiver because of the type of ball skills he has and his knack for making plays. And so, it was good to see him kind of get started with two picks and I’m hoping that he continues to make those type of plays for us because we’re gonna need them down the stretch here.”
“Roman is the guy who you know he’s you know, the smart tough reliable guy that consistently makes plays but then when you look and see what Antwain [Littleton] brings and his power, his ability in the short yardage as well as third down. One of the things about ‘Twain is his ability as a pass catcher and route runner. If I were to say a third down back, he’d be the guy you want because of his physicality and protection, but also his ability to win in space as a route runner. For a big guy, he’s got great feet and great hands and so he’s very complimentary to what enrollment has been, and then Colby [McDonald] is the changeup and I’m so happy to see what Colby has been able to do with the opportunities that he’s earned. And I say not given because he’s been one of those guys maybe a year ago that found himself in the doghouse and, as I’d like to say, I use playing time to correct behaviors and you know what, he kept his head down. He kept plugging away and you know, ‘Twan opened the door for him when he you know, got himself put on a bench and now Colby made some plays, and we know that it’s almost like the freshman Colby is back, and he’s been practicing really well. So, we’ve got three guys there and then you throw in some of the other guys, the running back room is to me, it’s one of our strengths, and we have to continue to find ways to keep them all involved.”
“I mean, I just think in this day and age and if you’ve ever followed teams that I’ve had a chance to be a part of whether it’s as a coordinator here where we’ve used multiple running backs with Javon [Leake] and we had [Tayon] Fleet-Davis and Anthony McFarland, we’ve always kind of rotated and played guys and find roles. I think the more you can create roles for really good players, it helps keep guys here because again, you don’t get better sitting on a bench. We realize that and anytime we can create roles in our offense or defense for players to play and create value for themselves, it helps us as a team, so it’s great to see guys be unselfish and know that, you know what, you’re not gonna play 60 plays, you’re probably play 40 but you’ll get opportunities because it’s all about the touches for us with the skill guys on offense.”
“I don’t know how much our players even know. I mean, these guys don’t watch TV…they play video games, they study tape. You know, I don’t know how much of what was going on at Michigan State they know. We’ve talked about that, you know, obviously they’ve lost their head coach and when you watch tape, as I told them, what you saw against Washington will not be the team that shows up Saturday and I’ve been a part of a coaching change in the middle of the season when I took over for Randy Edsall. We were fortunate because we had a bye week, and it gave us a week to kind of get it out our system with those kids unfortunately didn’t have an opportunity to get it out their system or flush. It probably showed because the tape before that game, they’re the same Michigan State team. I mean, they’re one of the top third-down defenses in the country. I think they’ve given up seven out of 37 third downs on defense. Down inside the goal line, they pride themselves on being a really tough short-yardage, goal-line team and it shows. They’re one of the top teams in terms of sacks in the country. So, I expect them especially with what they’ve been through to kind of take that ‘us against the world’ mentality that we’ve seen around here. And that’s why for us, we better be prepared that you know, this won’t be the team that you saw against Washington. I think it’d be more of the original version, but with a little more oomph behind it because of what they’ve been through in the adversity they’re facing together. I think it’ll bring them together.”
“It’s about us. I’ve said here many times the opponent really doesn’t matter. We do study their tendencies, what they do, what they do well and try to create ways to stop those things, but it’ll be more what we do and focus on. It’s almost like playing an opening game again, because you don’t know and so when you don’t know what the opponent is going to do to attack you, you focus on yourself and making sure you’re doing the things you do well, and for us that’s what we’ve tried to do as we prepare.”
“Ike is one of those guys that even when he was a walk-on, you know he’s on scholarship obviously now, but even when he came in as a walk-on…he didn’t present himself like a walk-on. He’s been a leader from day one. He was one of those guys we put on our leadership council as a walk-on to represent that demographic on our team and he came in here an engineering major now he switched over to poli-sci and I mean, he does a tremendous job and the community, does a tremendous job in our locker room. He embodies what I would hope this program is all about because you see him come in to kind of a shy, maybe introverted personality and now he’s a guy that, we see he’s been our defensive player of the game, he’s rotating in and playing a lot of plays for us and has really created value for himself within our program and I think it gives hope to other guys that may come in as walk-ons. You see a guy like Conor Fagan starting two games for us and, you know, coming in as a walk-on tight end. We’re a developmental program and Ike has benefited from our program, and we’ve benefited from Ike.”
“Obviously kind of how the game went. It was a tough game early and our best players played quite a bit. Jaishawn is one of our leaders on the defensive side of the ball, really productive player. As we enter into our conference season, we realize we’re gonna need him and so we continue to play the players and develop them throughout and have them ready to be able to go as we enter conference season.”