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Maryland football has its new head coach. Now what?

Mike Locksley has been hired and introduced. Now it’s time to go to work.

Mike Locksley press conference Maryland football Lila Bromberg / Testudo Times

Maryland football officially introduced Mike Locksley as its head coach Thursday. The press conference doubled as a homecoming celebration. Cheerleaders and band members were the opening act for Locksley and Damon Evans. The new coach called the whole thing a “dream come true.”

With the pomp and circumstance over, it’s officially time to get to work.

Locksley will be wearing two hats over the next month or so. He’s still the offensive coordinator at Alabama, and will continue to hold that position through the College Football Playoff. At the press conference, he said he’d be in College Park into next week putting the groundwork in place, then return to Alabama Dec. 14 to help the No. 1 Crimson Tide prepare for a Dec. 29 semifinal matchup with Oklahoma.

“The way it has worked is I will work on Oklahoma during the day and when we practice, and then at night I will go in my office and put my Terp hat on and start recruiting for the Terps and get the Terps ready for our season,” Locksley said.

In three stints at Maryland, Locksley has experienced plenty of highs and lows. He mentioned in his press conference the stretch from 2001-03, in which the Terps went 31-8, and how he plans to recreate that.

“I have a vision, a picture in my mind for what it felt like and what it looked like when we accomplished those goals as a team. I know it can be done again,” Locksley said. “I know it’ll take some hard work. It’ll take some great effort. It’ll take this community getting behind the program and the players in this area staying home and developing that sense of pride back into wearing a Terp jersey. I love building. I’m a builder by nature. This is a great opportunity and the timing was just perfect for me now.”

As Locksley starts building, here’s an overview of the key areas he’ll need to focus on.

Assembling a staff

Locksley was vague when asked about his plans for filling out a staff, and said he would take his time and do his due diligence to make sure he made the correct hires. However, he did list five characteristics he wanted in an assistant coach. “They gotta be great communicators, they gotta be good scheme guys, great recruiters, great evaluators of talent, and then first and foremost, they’ve gotta be great mentors,” he said.

Every current Maryland assistant is still in somewhat of a holding pattern, although that shouldn’t last long. For what it’s worth, at least Chris Beatty and Azaar Abdul-Rahim were at the press conference. Those two, as well as safeties coach Chuck Heater, have received the most buzz as potentially being retained or even promoted.

Football Scoop reported Thursday that Maryland was “expected” to hire coveted Alabama receivers coach and co-offensive coordinator Josh Gattis, but a source told Fox Sports’ Bruce Feldman that those reports “couldn’t be further from the truth.” That doesn’t mean it won’t happen, though, and Gattis has been a name attached to Locksley for a while. But if Saban tabs Gattis as Locksley’s replacement, then all other plans will likely go out the window.

DeMatha head coach Elijah Brooks has been rumored to jump to college for a while, but it’s possible Locksley would be the man to make that happen (he’d almost certainly be the running backs coach if so). Rutgers cornerbacks coach Cory Robinson is another name to watch, especially if Locksley doesn’t keep Abdul-Rahim on staff. Locksley has also worked with UTEP running backs coach Reggie Mitchell at Illinois and Army defensive line coach Chad Wilt at Maryland.

Those are just a few names that make sense. We’ll have a more complete board of the outlook at each assistant coaching position up soon.

Building a recruiting class

Maryland’s class for 2019 has just eight commits. There’s potential in that group, but its size makes it the worst class in the Big Ten by 247Sports’ rankings. It’s not a given that all eight remain committed after a coaching change, but it’s also hard to imagine anyone leaving now after being committed through all of Maryland’s turmoil.

But the early signing period, which starts Dec. 19 this cycle, makes it even more of a time crunch for newly-hired coaches trying to put together recruiting classes. When DJ Durkin came to Maryland, he had more options available in January than Locksley will now. So whether it’s securing pledges from uncommitted recruits or flipping prospects committed to other schools, the clock is ticking fast.

At Alabama, Locksley had a trio of commitments from Maryland—St. Frances linebacker Shane Lee and guard Darrian Dalcourt and DeMatha safety DeMarcco Hellams are the Nos. 1, 7 and 3 players in the state, respectively—as well as St. John’s (D.C.) running back Keilan Robinson. It’s unclear whether he would turn around and recruit those prospects to Maryland, or how strongly they’d consider it. Other names to watch include Florida State safety commit Nick Cross (DeMatha) and West Virginia receiver commit Isaiah Hazel (Wise).

In the short term, landing even one of these recruits would be a pleasant surprise. In the long term, though, Maryland should be incredibly well-positioned in the area for 2020 and 2021, when the local talent pool is as loaded as it’s ever been.

Constructing a roster

Regardless of who the coach is, plenty of veterans that have been caught or passed on the depth chart make for prime transfer candidates. That could apply to quarterback Max Bortenschlager, running back Lorenzo Harrison III, wide receiver DJ Turner and a handful of linemen, among others. (Harrison and Turner are from DeMatha and both committed to Maryland with Locksley on staff, so it’s a little harder to see them leaving.)

It’s also too early to say which players might be coming in. But the archetype might be a former blue-chip recruit who has a close relationship with Locksley and has struggled to stand out at a premier program. This is the kind of formula that led to Marcus Lewis and Byron Cowart coming to College Park (neither will be around next season, though). Don’t expect Jalen Hurts to follow his coordinator to Maryland, but it’s also too early to completely rule it out.

That’s the fun in all of this. Locksley’s hire excited the whole DMV football community, which makes a lot of things seem possible that wouldn’t otherwise make sense at Maryland. Over the coming days and weeks, we’ll see how it all starts to come together.