As the coach who replaced Steve Spurrier at Florida in 2002, Ron Zook hired an up-and-coming Maryland assistant named Mike Locksley to be his running backs coach and recruiting coordinator. After Zook left three years later for the head job at Illinois, he brought Locksley with him to be his offensive coordinator.
Locksley returned the favor Wednesday, bringing in the 65-year-old Zook as a senior analyst to work with Maryland’s special teams and defense in an off-field, non-recruiting role.
Until recently, Zook was working for the Salt Lake Stallions of the now-defunct Alliance of American Football as the team’s secondary coach and special teams coordinator. He previously served as a special teams coach for the Green Bay Packers from 2014 through 2018, a job he took after two years away from coaching.
“To be able to add the caliber of coach that Ron Zook is, who I’ve had the opportunity to work for at Florida as well as the University of Illinois, to our staff as a senior analyst, it gives us another great set of eyes and advice and all the other things that come along when you hire a guy like him and his caliber,” Locksley said after practice Wednesday. “We’re excited to add coach Zook to our staff.”
Zook had the misfortune of replacing the legendary Spurrier in Gainesville, where a fan started a FireRonZook.com website soon after the No. 6 Gators lost to No. 1 Miami, 41-16, at home in “The Swamp” in the second game of the 2002 season. He had winning records each year at Florida, going a combined 23-14, before taking the job at Illinois.
After winning just four games in Zook’s first two seasons in Champaign, Illinois started to see the fruits of Locksley’s recruiting in 2007, when it started 5-1 and finished 9-3, earning a trip to the Rose Bowl. Locksley left after the 2008 season for his first head coaching job at New Mexico, where he lasted a little over two seasons before being fired. Zook had just one more winning season with the Fighting Illini, going 7-6 in 2010, before getting fired in 2011.
Note: A day after Maryland announced that wide receiver Jeshaun Jones will miss the 2019 season with a torn ACL, Locksley said that he expects the rising sophomore "to to come back stronger and better than before” in 2020. “A huge blow to our team from the standpoint of the production that he had as a true freshman,” Locksley said of Jones. “But we understand that’s part of the game of football and that injuries occur. We’ve got a great medical staff that will get him fixed and start the rehab process as quickly as we can.”