Interim coach Locksley tries to lighten the mood at Maryland
COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) Mike Locksley wants to make football fun again for the beleaguered players at Maryland.
The Terrapins (2-4, 0-2 Big Ten) had a bye last week, and during the break Locksley - who took over as interim coach after Randy Edsall was fired on Oct. 11 - looked for ways to ease some of the pressure on a team that lost three straight games in lopsided fashion before ultimately losing its head coach.
Over the past several days, Locksley has piped music into the team room before meetings and stressed individual competition at practice. He even allowed the scout teams to run a couple plays against each other rather than merely serve as fodder for the regulars.
''I think a team takes on the personality of its leader, and with me being the leader the next six weeks, when your kids go through tough times you need to lighten the mood a little bit,'' Locksley said Tuesday. ''For us and for me, the big thing is, I don't want our guys playing tight. I don't want them thinking they have to go out to win to save people's jobs or get a guy a job. I want them to go play football in its purest form.''
The 45-year-old Locksley was assigned the role of interim coach after serving as Edsall's offensive coordinator. Maryland athletic director Kevin Anderson says Locksley - who went 2-26 as head coach at New Mexico from 2009-11 - is in the mix to take over on a permanent basis.
Saturday's game in Baltimore against Penn State (5-2, 2-1) could be perceived as the beginning of an audition for Locksley.
Even if someone else gets the Maryland job, Locksley could land a prestigious post elsewhere if he turns around the struggling Terps.
''I really am not going to concern myself about auditioning for a head coaching job. I won't politic for it,'' he said. ''I think my only mission and my only job is to make sure these kids, especially the seniors, have an opportunity to go out and be as competitive as they can be the next six weeks, have fun and play the game with as much passion as they can.
''I'm a big believer in working for the job you have and not for the one you want. Right now my job is to prepare these guys for Penn State.''
Senior offensive lineman Andrew Zeller was stunned when Edsall was dismissed, but he's hoping the change at the top can turn around a season that is only halfway done.
''There's nothing we can do to change the situation, and we've just moved on,'' Zeller said. ''We still have a season to play. We've got six games with the potential of playing another one. That's all we're worried about right now.''
Locksley understands the importance of helping develop quarterback Perry Hills and tightening up a defense that has yielded 122 points in the last three games. But making Maryland better goes beyond that.
''Whether it's little things like playing music before the team meeting, all the things that this generation likes to do, we're just trying to make sure it's more of a mood than it is something that we're doing on the field,'' he said. ''It starts with me having a high energy. I think we've seen a little bit of a change, and we're excited. Now we've got to see it work on Saturday.''