More than three decades ago, Mike Locksley graduated from Ballou High School in Washington, D.C. Then came a decision for where he would attend college.
Locksley deemed himself a late qualifier. He didn’t have a great SAT score. His high school football coach knew the defensive coordinator at a Division I college less than two hours away. He and his wife, Kia, entered college with their first of four children.
All those factors resulted in Locksley’s decision to play football at Towson University.
“It was important for me to be close enough but far enough away to play a role in having a son at an early age but obviously the opportunity to earn a degree,” Locksley said.
Locksley played safety for the Tigers from 1988-91. He was the team’s defensive MVP in his senior season, and finished his career ranked inside the top 20 on the program’s all-time tackles list.
Locksley spent more than three decades in coaching in a combined 13 roles at nine different schools. The beginning stop of Locksley’s coaching journey was a familiar one. It was the one he called home for four seasons as a player.
“Going to Towson changed the lineage of my family,” Locksley said. “[I’m] very thankful for that opportunity.”
Maryland faces Towson on Saturday to kick off its 2023 campaign. It’ll be the Terps’ — and Locksley’s — first matchup against the Tigers since he took over the program in 2019. But week one isn’t about coaching against a familiar school. It’s about establishing Maryland’s 2023 identity, Locksley said.
Defensive back Beau Brade echoed the sentiment.
“We’re playing Maryland, we’re not playing Towson,” Brade said. “We’re trying to do the best we can do to play to our standard, which is professional.”
Tweaked Maryland offense
While Maryland’s offensive system will stay mostly the same under new offensive coordinator Josh Gattis, the attack could undergo small tweaks. That starts with the use of running backs in the pass game.
The Terps’ backfield combined to account for just 11 percent of their receiving yards last season. Roman Hemby paced the group with 298 yards on 33 receptions, a reason why Taulia Tagovailoa believes that all of his running backs are versatile and can be contributors as receivers.
“We put Roman out in the slot, we put him out wide to the field,” Tagovailoa said. “He’s running routes.”
Using the backfield as part of its passing attack sets up Maryland for an air raid offense in 2023 — one that spreads the field with weapons on the outside,Tagovailoa said.
The quarterback threw for more than 3,000 yards and added 18 touchdowns last season. He’s broken numerous program passing records. Now he’s entering this campaign with a gunslinger mentality.
“[The system’s] more to my strengths as well as our receivers and o-line strengths,” Tagovailoa said. “Getting the ball out of my hands quick.”
Locksley understands his offensive line
Three of the Terps’ starters on their offensive line from a season ago — Johari Branch, Jaelyn Duncan and Spencer Anderson — moved on to the NFL. Coltin Deery and Mason Lunsford transferred out of College Park.
That leaves DJ Glaze as the lone returner of Maryland’s unit up front for 2023.
Locksley brought in a quartet of transfers — Gottlieb Ayedze from Frostburg State, Corey Bullock from North Carolina Central, Marcus Dumervil from LSU and Elon’s Mike Purcell — to offset the losses.
Maryland’s season-opener against Towson will be the group’s first chance to mesh on the field in live-action. Still, Locksley holds a pretty good understanding of the unit. The coach declined to name starters Tuesday.
“All these guys have come in and really been able to help fill the gap that we’ve lost,” Locksley said.
Chemistry in the defensive back room
Ja’Quan Sheppard transferred to Maryland this offseason after four seasons at Cincinnati, while Deonte Banks and Jakorian Bennett were drafted. Sheppard’s latest campaign is his best, racking up 10 pass breakups and earning first team All-AAC.
Sheppard could start alongside Tarheeb Still as the Terps’ top two outside corners. Brade and Dante Trader Jr. provide the pair with help as Maryland’s back line of defense. The safety tandem combined for four interceptions and nine pass breakups a year ago.
Off the field, the defensive back room has cultivated a strong relationship with one another by watching film or hanging out at each other’s places — a feat Brade feels was instrumental in establishing entering the season.