Maryland coach Mike Locksley talks about the recent comments by Michigan offensive coordinator Josh Gattis about his role in the Alabama offense last season.
COLLEGE PARK — First-year Maryland fooball coach Mike Locksley seemed to be waiting for the chance to respond to comments made recently by new Michigan offensive coordinator Josh Gattis about the role Gattis played last season while the two were at Alabama.
Locksley was in his first season as the team’s offensive coordinator and Gattis, the team’s receivers coach, had the title of co-offensive coordinator.
Saying he had a “tremendous amount of respect” for Locksley, Gattis told reporters in Ann Arbor, Michigan, last week, “Mike Locksley can say I watched him call every play, but ask him where the game plans usually came from. So I’m fine with that. He did call every play, and I’ve got a notebook upstairs with all the game plans written down in them.”
All it took was a question after Saturday’s Terps intrasquad scrimmage at Maryland Stadium for Locksley to speak about what Gattis said.
“I don’t care to comment on it, but I am, because I’d like to put this to bed,” Locksley said. "Here’s what I say. I’ve been a first-time play-caller before. Back in 2005 [at Illinois] was the first time I had a chance to call plays, so I know the anxiety that comes along with it. Josh knows the truth, that’s really important to understand. I also know there’s a difference between suggestions and decisions.
“He’ll have an opportunity to make decisions now. He’s got a job to do, I’ve got a job to do here. I want to talk about my coordinator [Scottie Montgomery], the guys I have in my program, which I feel really good about. ... I’m sure that notebook he has upstairs has a lot of suggestions in them. Hopefully he’ll utilize them in the right way and make good decisions like I did for Alabama.”
Locksley won the prestigious Broyles Award, given to the top assistant in the Football Bowl Subdivision, after the team’s offense, led by quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, set school records for points scored, total offense and passing yards. Tagovailoa, who finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting to Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray, set school records for passing yards and passing touchdowns.
Gattis’ remarks were prompted, at least in part, by what he thought might have been a slight by Locksley. At the Big Ten Media Days in Chicago last month, Locksley was asked how impressed he was with the job the then-34-year-old Gattis had done in his first season as co-offensive coordinator.
"I was impressed with all of our assistants,” Locksley said, before naming the rest of the offensive staff.
There is also the matter of Gattis’ decision to go to Ann Arbor, Michigan, after reportedly being Locksley’s first choice to become Maryland’s offensive coordinator.
“I never thought that Josh was going with me,” Locksley said in Chicago. “He was a guy that I considered. I was happy that he was given the opportunity that he was given at Michigan.”
While Locksley hopes it will be the last time he is asked about Gattis, it will likely come up again when the Terps host the Wolverines at Maryland Stadium on Nov. 2.
Though Locksley called the scrimmage — the Terps’ first of the preseason — “very successful” in many ways, the performance of the four quarterbacks vying for the starting job was a big disappointment to him, particularly in their execution in third-down situations.
“Obviously a good quarterback has to win on third down, and I don’t think any of those guys did a good job in our third-down segment,” Locksley said.
Locksley said he played all four — redshirt juniors Josh Jackson and Max Bortenschlager, redshirt freshman Tyler DeSue and true freshman Lance LeGendre — evenly to evaluate them fairly.
“We didn’t have a bunch of turnovers. So that’s a plus," Locksley said. “I’ll hold my judgement until I watch the tape a little more closely because a lot of it goes in to decision-making. Again, the guy that plays quarterback for us, the starter, will be a guy that takes care of the football, first and foremost, and secondly puts points on the board in a productive way.”
Running backs stand out
The strongest performance of the afternoon was put together by a group of running backs considered among the best collectively in the Big Ten. And, as expected, redshirt sophomore Anthony McFarland Jr. and junior Javon Leake stood out.
“Anthony McFarland had some big runs early on in some limited situations that we played him,” Locksley said of the player who broke LaMont Jordan’s school record for rushing yardage by a freshman last season, with 1,034. "Javon Leake [did] some really good things. I was happy to see Jake Funk; he made some big plays.
“The running back room has probably been the most consistent room in terms of where our playmaking ability is. It’s not a surprise because that room in my opinion is the strength of our team. ... The running backs have been where the big plays have come."
Locksley didn’t report any significant injuries from the scrimmage. Aside from the torn ACL sustained at Monday’s practice by sophomore wide receiver Jeshaun Jones, the first week of practice has been relatively stress-free from a medical standpoint.
The one big concern could be redshirt sophomore offensive tackle Marcus Minor, who sat out the past two practices, including the scrimmage, with a lower back problem, and redshirt junior running back Lorenzo Harrison III, who continues to sit out because of a nagging hamstring strain.
“We’re still trying to figure out what is wrong,” Locksley said of Harrison, who missed most of last season after undergoing minor knee surgery.