After he was introduced as Maryland football's interim head coach, Mike Locksley made it clear that he wouldn't be making a huge departure from what the offense looked like under Randy Edsall. He emphasized that he would make a few "tweaks," and some small "philosophical changes," but that the structure the team had already established would stay.
On Tuesday, those tweaks seemed to make a difference.
"We kept the same structure for the most part, but we did the some things, the competition period where we line a guy up one-on-one, fourth down, it's like playing backyard football," Locksley said. "Those guys enjoyed that part of it."
In the middle of practice, Locksley stopped the normal flow of things to do something unexpected.
"He'd call out a DB or a receiver, or an offensive and defensive lineman for a one-on-one, just to get the blood flowing a bit," linebacker Yannick Ngakoue said.
"We had a little fun, it was a surprise," cornerback Will Likely said. "He just stopped the practice and called out some players and had them do one-on-ones. It was pretty fun stuff. It gets everyone excited."
Ngakoue pointed to Derwin Gray and D.J. Moore as players who won their one-on-one drills. Moore has one of the team's only two receiving touchdowns in the last three games, and Gray is a former four-star tackle who sits behind fellow redshirt freshman Damian Prince on the depth chart.
Having fun was one of the main points Locksley made during his introductory press conference, and that seems to be his focus going forward. S&P+ still predicts Maryland to go 3-9 this season, so having fun is probably a better goal than "going undefeated." However, keeping things light could get tougher come late November if the team continues down the path it's been on.
"We've got more music playing and stuff like that, more competition drills to get our juices flowing," Ngakoue said.
These adjustments seemed to have a positive effect on the players. When Locksley was addressing the media after practice, offensive linemen Evan Mulrooney and Ryan Doyle cheered, "Locksley, Locksley!" as they walked off the field.
Locksley also addressed the elephant in the room – his status as interim head coach:
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 this program. We'll take care of business on the field. If I'm the guy, great. If not, I'm still a Maryland guy, I've always loved and had an affinity for this place, and I'll continue to be a big fan whether I'm here or not.
He also shared some thoughts on John Dunn, who has a new title as assistant coach-tight ends/recruiting coordinator.
He's been the guy who organized it when I wasn't there. When I have to leave, things don't stop in terms of the preparation. John's a bright young coach, really sharp, and I have a lot of confidence in him when everyone has to pick up a little extra slack.
Maryland will be off this weekend before taking on Penn State at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore on Oct. 14.