By Ethan Cadeaux (@Ethan_301)
After one of the longest weeks in College Park in recent memory, the Terps have a newfound energy heading into the bye week, before they clash with rival Penn State next Saturday. Wednesday was the first practice in five years that Randy Edsall was not directing, as the Terps let the former head coach go Sunday, following a third consecutive loss and a rough 2-4 start.
Offensive coordinator Mike Locksley steps in as the interim head coach, and still thinks his team can prove a lot the rest of the season.
“The energy was good today since it is something different for those guys,” said Locksley following his first practice as head coach. “They came out and gave great effort, and had a little more fun today. The energy level was up, as it should be.”
With so many headlines and distractions surrounding the Terps this past week off the field, getting back to playing and practicing actual football is a good thing for Maryland.
“The last couple days have been a whirlwind,” said Locksley. “Getting back to the football part, which is the most important part for me, was good. I know for the team, being able to get out on the field is the one place where no matter what is going on in your life, you can get away from it for just a couple hours.”
Locksley had a meeting yesterday with just himself and the team, where he talked about coming in touch with those feelings about losing their head coach, relating it to the feeling of losing a parent, with the way the change happened.
“I told the kids that I feel like crap,” said Locksley. “I know I played a part in this decision, with not getting the job done on the offensive side of the ball. A good coach lost his job, but it is behind us now. As much as we tend to dwell on it, we have to move forward for the program and for our fans.”
Besides all the off the field issues, the Terps still have many things on the field they must improve. Ending the continuous quarterback carousel is one way for the Terps to start improving on the field. After a respectable performance by junior quarterback Perry Hills versus number 1 Ohio State this past Saturday, Locksley named Hills the starting quarterback for the rest of the season.
“It has been a journey,” said Hills on the quarterback situation this year. “Whenever I wasn’t the guy, coach told me stay mentally prepared. That is something that I did, and if and when I got an opportunity again, I said I wasn’t going to blow it.”
The Terps played loose and fun-loving against Ohio State, which kept them even with the Buckeyes throughout most of the game.
“We had a chance to beat those guys,” said junior cornerback Will Likely. “We just have to limit our mistakes.”
The Terps must adopt this loose style of play for the rest of the season, instead of worrying about making mistakes and playing too conservative.
“If you aren’t having fun, you aren’t doing the right things,” said Hills. “You just have to go out there, light-hearted, I mean it is football, you love to play this game, you’ve played it since you were little. Go have fun and do the things you are supposed to.”
Although many think the final six game stretch is an audition for Locksley for the full-time head coaching position, Locksley is not focused on his future job status at all.
“It is not about that,” Locksley said about having these next six weeks be an audition. “I have zero expectations about getting this job. I just want to do the best job I can for the next seven weeks as the leader of the program. If I am the guy great, if not, I am still a Maryland guy, I have always loved and had an affinity for this place, and I’ll continue to be a big fan, whether I am here or not.”
With this enormous change being thrown at the team all at once, the players have stuck with one another to get through this.
“It really doesn’t matter who is coaching us,” said Hills. “It is all about the players, us being a family, and playing for each other. At the end of the day it is [the player’s] team.”