Notebook: Locksley Talks Maryland Football Heading to Duke’s Mayo Bowl

Maryland Set to Face Former ACC Foe

Maryland drew the best-case scenario among the realistic pool of potential bowl destinations and will now head to Charlotte to face NC State in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl. While the matchup gives fans an opportunity to make the six-hour drive to North Carolina ahead of New Year’s, it’ll also mark the 71st matchup between the Terps and Wolfpack. Not only will the winning head coach have mayo poured on him following the game, but the winner will get a chance to claim bragging rights with the series history deadlocked at 33-33-4.

“I love that our fans during the holiday season will have an opportunity to come down, conveniently drive down, fly in, down to Charlotte to take on a great game between, like I said, two former ACC rivals.”

Players will enjoy events leading up to the bowl game such as a drive at Charlotte Motor Speedway, but Danny Morrison, executive director of the Charlotte Sports Foundation, explained what was attractive about Maryland for its bowl. “A lot of it’s already been referenced about the old ACC ties and 33-33-4, and a really good NC State team that finished the year with a win over North Carolina and already have referenced the Maryland games against two of the top four teams in the country, so we just think it’s a great match up for Maryland fans.”

“I think they’ll really enjoy Charlotte. It’s a wonderful uptown. Lot of things to do. You park your car, you walk everywhere. We had Clemson-Georgia in here to open the season a couple years ago. Of course, we’ve had the bowl games, neutral site games. People that come to Charlotte, they really embrace the experience and have a fun time.”

As for head coach Mike Locksley, the appreciation for the added practices mirrors his sentiment leading up to last year’s Pinstripe Bowl.

“I know as a coach, I’m excited because of the extra practices that come along with this opportunity as well as us still recruiting down in that region of the country. An opportunity to take the Maryland brand down to North Carolina. But most of all, I’m happy for our players. They’ve earned the right. They’ve laid a tremendous foundation that we’re excited to build upon and our seniors to be able to go out with and with an opportunity to play a really great game down in Charlotte. To me, it’s really what it’s all about. It’s rewarding. This 2022 football family as well as the seniors that have exhausted their eligibility and we’re looking forward to a great week in Charlotte, as well as playing a great game in an NFL stadium.”

Update on Offensive Stars

Maryland’s offense could look a bit different at wide receiver between the season finale and the bowl game. Maryland has already watched a pair of receivers opt out of the bowl game with Dontay Demus and Jacob Copeland making their decisions public, ending a storied career for Demus after becoming the seventh player to record at least 2,000 career receiving yards in his final game against Rutgers. Locksley described his senior leader as “a warrior” as he now begins preparation for his NFL career.

“Nothing but the utmost respect for Dontay,” Locksley added. “I know for him this season statistically maybe didn’t match up to what he would like, but I thought he played an integral role in us getting back to where we are today. The leadership this kid provided, when you talk about guys and perseverance and resiliency, I mean he’s the poster child for those words because of what he’s gone through during his time here at Maryland and overcoming the injury to get back in time to even play this year. You have no idea just what it took to be able to do that.”

Locksley also added that quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa is expected to play against NC State after suffering lower leg injuries during the latter half of the season, forcing him to miss the Northwestern game and leave in the final seconds of the Ohio State game. “He’s been practicing. We’ve had two practices last week, kind of to get him back,” Locksley added. “His injuries have not been major injuries. He came back and finished the game obviously against Rutgers and broke the record there so the expectation is Talia’s been here working with the team, partaking in all of our, you know, PRPs, player-run practices as well as our bowl prep.”

Meanwhile, Locksley added there’s no update on wide receiver Rakim Jarrett’s availability for the bowl game.

Potential Key Return for 2023

Maryland was expected to replace all three starting defensive linemen next season, but head coach Mike Locksley said that might not be the case with one veteran now likely to return.

“There’s a chance this may not be Mo’s last time playing as a Terp. As we continue to work, he does have one year left possibly and I know he’ll be making a decision here, which I think he’s leaning toward coming back and building, uh an opportunity to create value for himself. So excited about that and excited about what those guys have been able to add to our program.”

Nasili-Kite finished with 26 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and a sack in all twelve games this season after emerging as an integral part of the Terps’ defensive line over the last two seasons. In fact, Nasili-Kite was among a handful of impact signees out of Independence C.C. back in the 2020 recruiting cycle as he joined Johari Branch, Ami Finau and TJ Kautai in College Park. While Kautai elected to hit the transfer portal prior to the 2022 season, all three former juco teammates have emerged as key pieces for the Terps in the trenches and Locksley took note of their value.

“It’s one thing when you talk about Ami and Mo on defense, but then you throw in a guy like Johari Branch and what he’s been to us on the offensive side. When we recruit junior college or transfer portal, we’re looking for guys that have the ability to fill gaps. We’ll never be a team that majors in taking all transfer portal, all junior college. We want to build with the high school football player, develop them as much as we can in our program, and then supplement where we have needs with guys like the Ami and Mo and Johari and even Challen Faamatau who came in and played some running back for us before injured being injured. So those guys were a major part of the building blocks over the last few years.”

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