Now that Mike Locksley is Maryland football's interim head coach, people will expect an increase in offensive production after the team has struggled on that side of the ball so far this season.
Clearly, offense was on athletic director Kevin Anderson's mind when he fired Randy Edsall. For Locksley to get the permanent head-coaching position, a tall task for the 45-year old, he's going to have to show that he can lead a high-powered offense. That could be difficult with the personnel Maryland currently has.
"We want someone who can come in and excite the fan base," Anderson said. "The fans want exciting, wide open offense. We're going to open up the offense, and there's things that we can do, that we did do at Ohio State yesterday, that we're going to continue."
Locksley has certainly been part of the construction of Maryland's anemic offense so far, but now that he has full control, there will be a few "philisophical changes." This doesn't mean we will be seeing a complete overhaul of the offense, but that would be tough to do in the middle of the season anyway.
"Do I see us coming in and making wholesale changes?" he said. "I don't think that would be productive for us as a team. There will be some small tweaks in how we do things around here."
After being introduced as the team's new head coach, Locksley listed "stablizing the quarterback position" as his No. 1 priority, and said Perry Hills will be under center going forward. Although it might seem counterintuitive that the quarterback who possesses the least powerful arm on the team should lead the "high-powered offense" that Anderson evisions, Hills showed against Ohio State that he's capable of making enough plays with his legs to balance out his lack of arm strength.
"Perry's skill set enabled us to do some things offensively that we displayed yesterday, and we're hoping to be able to build on that," Locksley said.
This figures to mean we'll be seeing more options and designed quarterback runs that take full advantage of Hills's athleticism, but certainly doesn't rule out some deep passes, as one of Maryland's touchdowns against Ohio State came on a 52-yard strike from Hills to D.J. Moore.
The Terps' play-calling against the Buckeyes was more inspired and exciting than we'd seen in the team's previous duds against West Virginia and Michigan, so there are some rays of hope for the team's creativity. Anderson said the Terps would "embellish" some of the trickery and innovation they showed against the Buckeyes, which might mean more triple-optioning, misdirections and designed Hills keepers.
Stunningly, Maryland currently owns the second-ranked rushing offense in the nation, according to S&P+. The Terps probably won't finish that high, but having a good running attack will allow the team to take a couple shots downfield as opposing safeties start to creep up to stop the run.
"We've got six games left, and we don't want it to be for naught," Anderson said. "Their legacy could be 'we're going to go out there and compete and win these next six games.'"
Locksley has two weeks to prepare his team for a matchup against Penn State in a game that pits the Terps against one of its biggest recruiting rivals. S&P+ gives the Terps a 16 percent chance to win that matchup.
"Change is tough," Locksley said. "We can dwell on it or move forward."
S&P+ projects Maryland to win one more game this season. If Locksley doesn't change that and produce an efficient Maryland offense, he will be forking over any chance he has at keeping his job permanently.
"We haven't talked about how we are going to move forward, but I expect Michael to do a great job and be a candidate for the position," Anderson said.
Even if the team performs better than they have so far this season, Locksley could still be replaced as coach. Anderson doesn't seem like a guy who values moral victories. When asked if Maryland's relatively inspired performance against Ohio State made him reconsider firing Edsall, Anderson's reply was terse: "We lost by 21 points."