A day after Maryland announced the hiring of Mike Locksley as its football coach, many current and former Terrapins players praised the move while the program prepared to move quickly to solidify a coaching staff and recruiting efforts that have been in limbo for months.
Athletic Director Damon Evans met with the football staff Wednesday afternoon, and Locksley will meet with the assistants on Thursday, according to a person close to the situation. Locksley is expected to make personnel decisions within the next two weeks, according to a person close to the situation. It is unknown how many, if any, staff members under former coach DJ Durkin could be retained.
With the early signing period starting in two weeks, Maryland has just eight recruits committed to its 2019 class, which ranks 85th nationally and last in the Big Ten, according to 247 Sports. Locksley, the offensive coordinator at Alabama, will split his time between the Crimson Tide and Terrapins through the College Football Playoff, according to a person close to the situation. Thus, Locksley will have to balance his recruiting efforts for Maryland with preparing his Alabama offense for the postseason.
A handful of current Maryland players, including running back Anthony McFarland, offensive lineman Ellis McKennie, wide receiver Darryl Jones and defensive lineman Adam McLean, offered support for Locksley on social media.
“I know my boys are happy!!” tweeted Tre Watson, a graduate transfer linebacker who led the defense in his only season at Maryland. “Right the ship and let’s get to winning. The team to do it is sitting right there in that locker room.”
Locksley is a Washington native who previously served two stints as an assistant with the Terrapins. He coached running backs from 1997 to 2002, and he returned as the offensive coordinator from 2012 to 2015. He served as interim head coach for the final six games of the 2015 season after Maryland fired Randy Edsall.
Because of Locksley’s ties to the program and strong reputation as a recruiter of the area, many former Maryland players are familiar with Locksley and supported the decision.
“We’re just happy that he got the opportunity that he deserves to kind of reclaim what he put so much time, energy and effort into,” said offensive lineman Damian Prince, who just completed his senior season and previously played for Locksley at Maryland. “He started coaching here in the late ’90s. I feel like this was kind owed to him. Now he can run the program the way that he wants to.”
As a high schooler, Prince remembers seeing Locksley in the hallway at his school. At the time, he wasn’t sure if Locksley knew who he was, but Prince certainly knew of Locksley, who was New Mexico’s head coach at the time.
“He’s kind of the godfather of college football in this area,” Prince said. “That’s the regard he’s held in.”
When Locksley joined Maryland’s staff in 2011, he became Prince’s primary recruiter. Prince grew up in Southeast Washington and felt confident about Locksley’s character based on what he heard from members of the community. When Prince, a five-star recruit, arrived in College Park, he said Locksley helped make his transition to college easier.
After Maryland hired Locksley on Tuesday night, Prince tweeted that Locksley was “exactly what the team [needs]." Jermaine Carter Jr., a former Maryland linebacker now with the Carolina Panthers, responded that Maryland “needed that three years ago,” referencing how the school hired Durkin over Locksley in 2015.
“He was a guy that I could always come down and sit in his office and talk to him,” Carter said. “He recruited me, so he was kind of my ear or my shoulder to lean on.”
The team’s leadership council met with then-athletic director Kevin Anderson a couple times to say the players wanted Locksley to receive the permanent job, according to Carter, who instead finished his college career under Durkin.
Durkin was fired Oct. 31 after being placed on administrative leave in August in the wake of the June death of 19-year-old offensive lineman Jordan McNair, who suffered heatstroke at a team workout. The team was led during the season by interim coach Matt Canada, who along with Michigan assistant Pep Hamilton was one of three finalists for the job won by Locksley.
At New Mexico in his only previous stint as a head coach, Locksley was fired four games into his third season after accumulating a 2-26 record and running into multiple off-the-field issues. Still, many believe Locksley’s recruiting ability will help Maryland land some of the top local high schoolers in the coming years. Before Maryland made the hire, Adam Friedman, a Mid-Atlantic recruiting analyst for Rivals, said the relationships Locksley would build with prospective players carries more weight in their decisions than the Terps’ win-loss records.
Coaches at some of the top high school programs in the Washington area believe Locksley will be able to quickly win over recruits. Carter, who grew up in Northeast Washington, said Locksley preaches “the importance of putting on for your hometown.”
While the hire comes fairly late in the recruiting cycle, DeMatha Coach Elijah Brooks said Locksley’s history in the area will make it “like the time doesn’t matter.” Brooks, who has sent multiple players to Maryland over the years, said the school made the right choice and there is no longer “free rein” when it comes to recruiting in the DMV.
“Everybody is going to have to check in now that he is the head guy,” Brooks said.
Good Counsel Coach Andy Stefanelli described Locksley as a players' coach, with an ability to go into recruits' living rooms with complete confidence to convince them and their parents that Maryland is the program for them.
“You want a guy that can come in and kind of be there for them and be that guy,” Stefanelli said. “That is the Mike Locksley I know. The kids are going to love him, the parents are going to trust him.”
While recruiting uncertain for Maryland, Stefanelli said this hire not only stabilizes the program, but makes the recruiting pitch even stronger for local recruits. Whether Maryland, which has averaged less than five wins a season in the last decade, becomes a school that kids flock to in the coming years is yet to be seen.
“People outside the DMV won’t get it, but people from there absolutely will. Especially his former Terp players,” ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt, a Maryland graduate, tweeted Tuesday night. “Unrivaled local respect among local HS coaches, he can help heal & unite the factions like no other.”
Samantha Pell contributed to this report.