COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) — Michael Locksley's first season as Maryland's coach was a struggle, and his second was significantly truncated because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Now entering Year Three, he wants the Terrapins to take a step forward — and doesn't see any reason that can't happen.
“There’s not any excuses for us this year," Locksley said. "COVID is what it is. We’ll continue to follow the protocols that state, local and campus officials ask us to follow as we navigate it. But as far as the football piece and the discipline piece and developing our program, it’s time for the excuses to end.”
Maryland returns eight starters on offense and 10 on defense, although it's hard to evaluate where that leaves the Terrapins since last season was so disjointed. Maryland was 2-1 and coming off a big win over Penn State when its next two games were canceled. The Terps ended up playing only twice in the final six weeks and lost both of those games.
Still, Locksley has been in charge long enough that the team should have a chance to start making strides.
“Our program's ready to take the next step," he said. "That begins and ends with playing and having the type of discipline while still establishing the types of habits that will create the behaviors we need to win and win big here.”
The last time a quarterback started every game for Maryland was in 2014 when C.J. Brown did it. That was also the last time the Terrapins had a winning season.
Taulia Tagovailoa started four of Maryland's five games last year. He averaged 252.8 yards passing per game, finishing third in the Big Ten behind Michael Penix and Justin Fields.
“I do have to step into the role and I know I've got to be more vocal, knowing that I'm the quarterback,” Tagovailoa said. “I have a lot of help from other guys — our receivers, linemen.”
If there's one clearly positive sign for Locksley and his staff, it's that Maryland brought in the No. 18 recruiting class in the nation this year, according to 247Sports. Only three Big Ten teams ranked higher.
That class includes five-star linebacker Terrence Lewis from the Miami area.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT
The Terrapins ranked in the bottom half of the conference in total defense last season and allowed a league-high 25.2 first downs per game.
Maryland has new coordinators on both sides of the ball, Dan Enos on offense and Brian Stewart on defense. Enos was the head coach at Central Michigan before serving as offensive coordinator at Arkansas. Since then, he's been on the move a lot: He was at Michigan for a matter of weeks in early 2018 before Alabama hired him as quarterbacks coach — at the same time Locksley was promoted to be the Crimson Tide's offensive coordinator.
Enos then spent the 2019 season as Miami's offensive coordinator. He was a running backs coach at Cincinnati last year.
“One of the first things that I've noticed, being a new coach, is the culture and how the guys get along, and how everybody's really really bought into coach Locksley and his vision of where he wants this program to go,” Enos said. “It's been very exciting for me to come in and be a part of that.”
Stewart was cornerbacks coach at Baylor last year. He was at Maryland previously from 2012-14, when he served as defensive coordinator and secondary coach.
The Terrapins open at home Sept. 4 with an intriguing nonconference matchup against West Virginia. In league play, Maryland has to play on the road against Ohio State (Oct. 9) but gets Iowa (Oct. 1), Penn State (Nov. 6) and Michigan (Nov. 20) in College Park.
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