Hours before Mike Locksley supervised a training camp practice for the first time since 2011, Maryland’s new head coach felt like a kid who had just been visited by Santa Claus.
“As a coach, this is like Christmas in August for us,” Locksley said Friday morning. “This is an opportunity to kind of open up the gifts we’ve recruited and the team that we’ve inherited, and see what we get. Typically, you get what you earn.”
The 49-year-old Locksley, who happens to have been born on Christmas Day, worked hard to have his own team again after failing miserably at New Mexico from 2009-11. He latched on at Maryland for four years as an assistant before becoming offensive coordinator at Alabama.
While the Crimson Tide flourished, the Terrapins floundered. The Maryland football program reached a nadir last year when offensive lineman Jordan McNair died of heat stroke, coach DJ Durkin was fired and interim coach Matt Canada got the Terps within a win of becoming bowl eligible before closing with a four-game skid.
Locksley was hired in December, and now he’s eager to improve his career record of 2-26 (not counting a 1-5 mark as Maryland interim coach in 2015). The advice he’s given his players — to live in the moment — applies also to himself.
“We’re going to be defined in the present. Not by what we’ve done, but what we do,” Locksley said. “We’re all aware of the things that have taken place here, but we’ve told our players, this 2019 team will be defined in the present.”
Locksley has gone through great lengths to create a positive atmosphere within a program that had carried a gloomy vibe just a year ago.
He’s had catered cookouts for the players at his house, encourages give-and-take from the team captains and is constantly pushing an all-for-one attitude.
“He showed great success at Alabama, but he’s been preaching a lot about family,” backup quarterback Max Bortenschlager said. “Everyone can kind of feel it, too. It’s now just him talking. He’s actually showing it, and it’s been really beneficial to us.”
During his first stint at Maryland, Locksley was an assistant when the Terps hired Ralph Friedgen in 2000 to be their head coach. In his first season, “Fridge” guided Maryland to the Atlantic Coast Conference title and a berth in the Orange Bowl.
Locksley can only hope for that kind of debut.
“As we shape, prepare and organize our offensive systems, a lot of that comes from the time I spent under Ralph,” Locksley said. “I take a lot from all the guys I’ve worked for. Obviously the success we’ve had at Alabama ... we’ve taken a bunch of those things and have implemented those here. I like thus far the dividends we’ve gotten from them.”
Locksley understands that a new coach and a year’s worth of time won’t erase the memory of what happened to Jordan.
“We move forward the right way,” Locksley said. “The way we’ll honor Jordan is by how we compete, how we practice and how we prepare. That is something our team has embraced. Because of what happened here, we feel like we’re in the best shape to navigate through this, and our team has really come together.”
Notes: Linebacker Keandre Jones, who transferred from Ohio State, received a waiver from the NCAA, making him eligible for the 2019 season. He joins a LB unit that includes Clemson transfer Shaq Smith. ... Locksley has not named his starting quarterback, although Virginia Tech transfer Josh Jackson appears to have the best shot at starting the opener on Aug. 31 against Howard.