New assistants getting acclimated to new roles with Maryland football

Maryland welcomed several new faces on both the roster and coaching staff as the team took the field on Tuesday for the first time this spring.

Buzz began when former Texas A&M and Arizona head coach Kevin Sumlin was announced as the new co-offensive coordinator and tight ends coach. Most recently serving as the GM/head coach of the Houston Gamblers, Sumlin gave the offensive staff its first assistant with head coaching experience. For Maryland, it gave them a veteran coach with over 30 years of experience who was already familiar with the program.

It’s a little bit of an advantage for me because I’ve been here before. Couple of years ago, [here for] fall camp,” Sumlin said on Tuesday. “Actually was at the Buffalo game this year. The circles we’ve been in, coach Locksley and I have known each other a long time.”

Sumlin’s longtime connection with head coach Mike Locksley helped the hire come to fruition. “We had talked before a number of times about different things over the course of the years. Obviously, I respect Mike a lot, a great deal. How he runs things, how he does things and for me, I just thought it was a good fit and a good opportunity to be a part of something that’s growing of the way things are done day-to-day. Just come and help. I just think that from what I’ve seen from outside looking in, it’s the same thing I see outside looking out. I see a program that’s growing, I see things being done the right way and I see the players not only getting better.”

Sumlin’s experience also helped pave the way for Locksley to fill his vacancy on the defensive side of the ball. Zac Spavital, former Texas State defensive coordinator, was announced as the new safeties coach on March 9 and he’s hit the ground running. “It’s been quick. Fast first month,” Spavital added.

“I’ve just mutually met [Locksley] over the years recruiting. I’ve worked for some guys, particularly Kevin Sumlin, and some other guys that worked with him in the past. That opened the door and obviously had the opportunity to come up and interview and it ended up working out. Really excited about it.”

The same day that Spavital was announced was when Josh Gattis was announced as the new offensive coordinator, five years after nearly becoming the offensive coordinator on Locksley’s first staff. But after Maryland’s vacancy opened in December, the two connected and the conversation shifted towards exploring a possible fit.

“I saw coach [Dan] Enos leaving and at the time, me and coach Locksley were talking quite a bit,” Gattis said. “When I got let go at the end of January, the first person that actually reached out to me was coach Locksley and that’s our friendship. We talk quite a bit. It wasn’t about the job, in fact we were talking three, four weeks before we even mentioned the job, he invited me to come up, just kind of get away, get a little football taste.”

It didn’t take long for Gattis to begin seriously exploring the possibility of him finally landing in College Park, even putting pen to paper.

“When I came up here, I was blown away walking into the facility first and foremost. This is the most beautiful facility I’ve been a part of, and I’ve been fortunate to work at some really nice places, but to see the commitment that has been made here to football. You’ve seen the success they’ve been able to build here the last few years, going to multiple bowl games, having the type of seasons, it really injected the energy and excitement in me. I told him at the time, if he’s OK with it I’d like to come back and spend a couple more days and then eventually it grew into that opportunity, but it goes back to relationships,” Gattis adds.

“The relationship I have with coach Locksley, no one has been more important in my career over the last few years than him. The things he’s done behind the scenes, leading the coalition, things that he’s done for me behind the scenes for potential head coaching opportunities, he’s done a lot and we’ve kept a very, very close relationship. So when the opportunity presented itself, it was a no-brainer for me.”

Meanwhile, Maryland filled the departure of Elijah Brooks with Latrell Scott with an official announcement just one day prior to spring ball. The longtime head coach accentuates the program’s recruiting efforts in Virginia, but just like Gattis and Sumlin, it’s Locksley’s network that helped pry Scott from East Carolina.

“I’ve known coach Locksley for 20-plus years. Obviously in this business, there are certain guys in the business you want to work with, just opportunities don’t present themselves and obviously he had some staff changes, he gave me a call and we were able to get it worked out,” Scott added.

Scott inherits a new room filled with an experienced group of backs now looking to separate themselves. Roman Hemby leads the way after a breakout 2022 campaign while Antwain Littleton and Colby McDonald return for the 1-2 punch. Second-year running back Ramon Brown, meanwhile, is in line for a breakout season as a potential every down back, but for Scott, getting a better feel for his personnel is step one this spring.

“I want to make sure I can get in and learn the system, learn our players. My biggest thing for them is I want to know what I can do to help them. It’s a very talented running back room and I want to kind of enhance their strengths and kind of correct some of the weaknesses. It’s just kind of been a learning process.”

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