Asmussen | Back with Terps, Locksley settles into head coaching life

Asmussen | Back with Terps, Locksley settles into head coaching life

You always knew Mike Locksley would get another chance as a head coach.

Too much potential.

Locksley's first stop at New Mexico wasn't a fair fight. The Lobos were a mess when he got there. He probably should have said "Thanks, but no thanks," when the school called.

But if you want to be a head coach, sometimes you need to take a leap of faith. He didn't realize it was into a bottomless pit.

Locksley's second shot shouldn't really count. For half of a season at Maryland in 2015, after Randy Edsall was fired, Locksley served as the Terrapins interim head coach.

The third time should be a charm. Locksley is back at Maryland. With a long contract. A chance to recruit (his specialty) and three years in the Nick Saban School of Football Head Coaching.

"This is the opportunity and the shot that I always coveted," Locksley told me this week. "I won't apologize for the New Mexico and taking over Maryland part of it. At the time, I felt they were great jobs.

"The thing I have taken from both of those opportunities is that you can learn so much when you quality control things where you haven't been successful. It's helped me in giving me some experience in terms of the best way to run things now."

Three years with Saban were a godsend. He joined the Crimson Tide in 2016 as an offensive analyst. In a snap, he was moving up, coaching the receivers during the national title season in 2017 and taking over as offensive coordinator in '18.

"Success leaves clues," Locksley said. "Being behind the wall of that great dynasty and how it's put together — the philosophies and processes and structure within it — have all been things I have taken with me."

Thankfully, Locksley isn't a Saban clone. No rants at reporters. Locksley has always been friendly with the media.

"I'm still my personality," Locksley said, "As a coach, you've got to be who you are. My personality is so different than Coach Saban's. All coaches have to be comfortable in their skin."

Jumping in

Locksley took the Maryland job on Dec. 4. He's been on the go ever since.

"It's been great," Locksley said. "The honeymoon phase is always good. Fortunately for me, this being my second go-round, I've got a comfort level in being able to balance the time between the football, the recruiting, promoting the program, the media requests. It's been a little smoother and easier transition than the last time I got to sit in the big chair."

Locksley lined up a 19-player signing class, ranked No. 62 nationally by Rivals.com,

That will get better. In a hurry. Locksley helped build Illinois into a Rose Bowl team and will try to do the same with the Terrapins.

"We've got to get the type of players that can give you sustainability as a program," Locksley said.

There is talent nearby.

"We've been able to shake some of the bushes around here and people are excited," Locksley said. "I feel good about where are. I feel like we're putting in the work to build the meaningful relationships in the area and throughout the country,"

Locksley is still a young guy. (He won't 50 until Christmas Day). He understands the rare air he occupies, getting a third head coaching call.

"Timing is everything," Locksley said. "This is the place I grew up rooting for as a kid."

Saban isn't his only mentor. He mentions Ron Zook, Ralph Friedgen, Edsall, Chuck Shelton and Bob Sutton.

He has taken a bit from all of them.

Locksley stays in close contact with Zook. In fact, he tried to get the former Illinois head coach to join him at Maryland as a special teams analyst.

"I think the timing wasn't right," Locksley said. "I know he'll end up back in the NFL. He's one of those guys I have always been real loyal to and he's always been good to me and my family."

Looking ahead

Locksley has high hopes for the Terrapins, In 2019 and beyond.

"I really think this place has a tremendous amount of potential," Locksley said.

He saw it, working on with 10-win Maryland teams in 2001-02.

"Those were some of the better years in the history of Maryland football," Locksley said.

He's not predicting greatness right away. In fact, he isn't thinking beyond the opener at home against Howard.

"We've got a lot of work to do," Locksley said.

Down the road, he will see some familiar faces.

On Sept. 18, 2021, Locksley brings Maryland to Memorial Stadium for a game against Illinois. It will be his first time in the building as an opponent.

Locksley had four good years in C-U and enjoyed it. So did his family.

"Illinois and Maryland were the two places I cut my teeth as a coach," Locksley said. "Illinois was my first place I had the opportunity to be a coordinator and have success.

"I've always been a huge fan of the Champaign-Urbana community and the way they took us in. My kids look at Champaign as their hometown. It was a great place to raise a family."

Bob Asmussen can be reached at 217-351-5233 or by email at asmussen@news-gazette.com.

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