NCF Nation: Mike Locksley

Maryland and Rutgers officially made the leap on Tuesday. In less than two months, they'll be playing football as members of the Big Ten.

We've been talking about this moment since November 2012. Rarely, have the Terrapins and Scarlet Knights been mentioned as contenders in their new league. But change comes fast in college football.

It could happen here, too. On this historic day as the Big Ten goes from 12 to 14, here are six reasons to believe that Maryland and Rutgers, as a pair and individually, can experience success in the Big Ten:
  • The Big Ten just isn't that good. You've heard about this, right? The league last played for a national championship seven years ago and hasn't won a title since January 2003. It has performed poorly of late against the major-conference competition and went 2-5 in bowls last season, though Michigan State did win the Rose Bowl – the Big Ten's second triumph in Pasadena since New Year's Day 2000. How does any of this impact Maryland and Rutgers, expected by many to finish 6-7 in the Big Ten East Division? It means no conference foe is unbeatable. It means there's hope.
  • For a while, at least, they're going to get noticed. Rutgers has long operated in the shadow of pro sports in its region, while Maryland football played second fiddle amid the ACC basketball buzz. The Big Ten figures to change some of that. The Terps have already benefited in recruiting from the move. Rutgers needs to capitalize on the attention to make a dent in a deep pool of New Jersey prep talent. You want excitement? Check out Rutgers' Big Ten opener, Sept. 13, when Penn State visits for the first meeting in the series since 1995. Expect Maryland's first Big Ten home game, three weeks later against Ohio State, to equally move the needle.
  • The Terps are trending up. Coach Randy Edsall took Maryland from a two-win team in 2011 to six in 2012 and seven last year. The Terrapins remained an average program in the ACC, but Edsall and his staff have begun to stack the pieces in place, notably on offense, to make a move in the Big Ten. For quarterback C.J. Brown, the time is now to make a mark in the new league. Brown, from Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania, is a dual threat who knows the Big Ten style. He works well with coordinator Mike Locksley, an innovative offensive mind. Meanwhile, Maryland's incoming class, bolstered by the impending move, ranked 50th nationally, featuring home grown star Damian Prince at offensive tackle.
  • Deon Long and Stefon Diggs are healthy. Diggs, a junior, and the senior Long form perhaps the best receiving duo in the Big Ten. Both wideouts suffered leg fractures on Oct. 19 in the Terps' 34-10 loss at Wake Forest. Long broke the fibula and tibia in his right leg; Diggs broke the fibula in his right leg, triggering a stretch of four Maryland losses in five games before a regular season-ending win at North Carolina State. Long and Diggs returned for spring practice and appear on track to torment even the best of secondaries in the Big Ten this fall.
  • Gary Nova is back at the helm. This could go either way, depending on whom you ask at Rutgers. But we say it's good for the Scarlet Knights to go through a transformation such as this in with a steady hand at quarterback. Nova has started 28 games and ranks third in school history with 51 touchdown throws. He was benched in favor of Chas Dodd after winning five of 10 starts in 2013, but Nova has won consistently, dating to his unbeaten days as a starter at Don Bosco Prep. To help his cause, Rutgers returns five starters on the offensive line and its top four rushers.
  • There's new energy on the Rutgers defense and strength up the middle. Joe Rossi, the 35-year Rutgers defensive coordinator promoted this offseason from special teams coach, offers a new start for a unit that endured struggles last season. Its strength comes against the run, which figures to suit Rutgers better in the Big Ten than it did in the AAC. And through the core of its defense, tackle Darius Hamilton, middle linebacker Kevin Snyder -- who switched spots with linebacker Steve Longa -- and safety Lorenzo Waters form a backbone of veteran leadership.

Maryland's impending move to the Big Ten in July presents an opportunity for the program to reinvent itself. Some would say it's not a bad idea after a 13-24 start to the Randy Edsall era.

But the Maryland team that makes its Big Ten debut on Sept. 27 at Indiana won't have a dramatically different design from the squad that played in the ACC last season or the season before. The Terrapins don't want to be Big Ten wannabes. They want to be themselves in 2014 -- hopefully a healthier and better version of themselves.

[+] EnlargeRandy Edsall
Doug Kapustin/MCT/Getty ImagesRandy Edsall's Terps will play in the B1G's East Division with Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan and Penn State.
"We're going to be who we are," Edsall told ESPN.com. "We're not going to change and say everybody in the Big Ten does this or that. We're going to try to make people adapt to us. We're not going to adapt to them."

So who are these Terrapins?

They run a no-huddle, spread offense that boasts one of the Big Ten's best returning receiving corps. Maryland returns five players who recorded at least 450 receiving yards in 2013, including Stefon Diggs, the one-time Ohio State recruiting target, and Deon Long. Both Diggs and Long were averaging more than 15 yards per reception before both suffered broken legs in an October loss to Wake Forest.

Injuries wiped out many of Maryland's top contributors in 2013 and played a role in the Terrapins' pedestrian offensive rankings (75th in total yards, 84th in scoring). But they return almost all of their top skill players, including quarterback C.J. Brown, a sixth-year player who missed two seasons (2010 and 2012) because of injury. Four starting offensive linemen also return.

"We've got some playmakers on offense [who] can really make things happen," Edsall said. "We've got some very talented wide receivers, our quarterback is really good, a dual threat. The biggest thing is we've got to stay healthy and continue to get better."

Edsall will lean on offensive coordinator Mike Locksley, who held the same position in the Big Ten at Illinois from 2005 to 2008. The Illini led the Big Ten in rushing in both 2005 and 2007 and in passing in 2008.

Maryland will use a hybrid 3-4 defensive scheme built around pressure. Although the Big Ten long has been dominated by 4-3 defenses, Wisconsin employed the 3-4 last season and had some success. Indiana likely will use an odd-man front under new coordinator Brian Knorr.

A Terrapins defense that, like the offense, suffered more than its share of injuries in 2013 returns a nice core that includes linebackers Cole Farrand (84 tackles) and Matt Robinson (10 tackles for loss) and nose tackle Andre Monroe (9.5 sacks, 17 tackles for loss).

"We've played good defense," Edsall said of a unit that ranked 44th nationally in yards allowed. "We still need to get better."

Edsall and his staff started preparing for the Big Ten move following Maryland's bowl game in December. The Terrapins will play 10 new opponents in 2014 (West Virginia and Syracuse are holdovers from 2013), including three Big Ten teams -- Ohio State, Iowa and Wisconsin -- that they have never faced.

[+] EnlargeBrown
AP Photo/Patrick SemanskyMaryland returns almost all of its top skill players in 2014, including quarterback C.J. Brown.
Nebraska faced some challenges when it moved from the Big 12 to the Big Ten in 2011, and Huskers coach Bo Pelini acknowledged last week that the recruiting adjustments are still happening.

"You have to acquire data," Pelini said. "That happens over three years."

How quickly can Maryland settle into its new league?

"Any time you change conferences, it will be different," said Danny O'Brien, who played quarterback at Maryland from 2009 to 2011 before transferring to a Big Ten school in Wisconsin, where he played in 2012. "My experience in the Big Ten, the front sevens are really good. A lot of teams can stop the run. It's a different style, and you get some weather situations that influence things a bit.

"They're playing different teams, so the game plans will change accordingly, and on the other side, teams are playing Maryland for the first time."

O'Brien remembers Maryland being a physical team, and he doesn't think the Terrapins will be intimidated by the new environments. Maryland visits Wisconsin, Penn State and Michigan this fall.

"I don't see that being a huge adjustment," O'Brien said. "There are some huge, loud stadiums in the Big Ten, but you have Clemson, Florida State, Virginia Tech [in the ACC]. Football is big everywhere."

How Maryland fans react to their team's new league will be a subplot of the move. Rutgers fans are overjoyed to be escaping the American, and many Nebraska fans had become annoyed with Texas' constant power plays. Terrapins fans, meanwhile, didn't want to leave the ACC, where Maryland is a charter member and has long-term rivalries.

Maryland even launched a public relations campaign that tried to boost perception about the B1G move, as the school anticipated an initial backlash.

"Just like anything, the fans and donors and alumni, any time there's change, it takes a little bit of time," Edsall said. "But since it's been announced, everybody sees the benefits to some of our athletic programs. The first day that they put tickets out, they sold 1,000 new season tickets. So when people see the schedule and the division we're in, that gets you excited."

Edsall echoes the excitement of playing in what appears to be a loaded East Division, which includes Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan and Penn State.

"When they came out with the divisions, people said, 'Whoa,'" Edsall said. "I looked at it and said, 'That's great.'"

The Big Ten move will have financial benefits for an athletic program that cut seven teams in 2012, and it also should boost football. Maryland will be the only Big Ten program without an indoor practice facility, but initial plans are under way to construct one in the coming years.

"We don't have a 100,000-seat stadium," Edsall said. "We have a 54,000-seat stadium, but it gets really loud. We're never going to be Ohio State or Michigan because we don't have those same resources. But what we can do is be Maryland and do the things we need to do to make us the best we've been."

The best that they can be, in Edsall's mind, is themselves.

Maryland building depth at receiver

February, 19, 2013
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Maryland true freshman Stefon Diggs grabbed all the headlines last season as the top Terps receiver, thanks to his incredible athleticism and eye-popping moves.

But behind Diggs, the Terps have assembled some pretty good depth and talent at receiver. That depth was bolstered further on signing day, when Maryland signed four-star receiver Taivon Jacobs, who flipped his commitment from Ohio State. His addition was enough to give Maryland coaches visions of Diggs and Jacobs running 4.0 40s in their heads.

[+] EnlargeStefon Diggs
G Fiume/Maryland Terrapins/Getty ImagesStefon Diggs headlines a deep group of Maryland receivers.
"In my opinion, we’re pretty stout at receiver," Maryland recruiting coordinator John Dunn said. "When you add more skill players, what that allows you to do is you can’t key on one guy, and you can’t throw coverage to one guy or double one guy. Now we’re adding even more explosive weapons to where maybe you’ve got to be more honest defensively and spread the ball around to all your different playmakers. I think it’s a very nice complement certainly."

Even better for Maryland -- there is not one senior among the top returning receivers. Maryland had four receivers with at least 10 catches last season. Three are back: Diggs, the team's leading receiver, along with second-leading receiver Marcus Leak (junior) and Nigel King (sophomore).

The Terps also return sophomore Levern Jacobs, who had seven catches for 50 yards last year, and sophomore Tyrek Cheeseboro, who has yet to live up to his potential because of injuries the past few seasons. Now add junior college transfer Deon Long into the mix. Long played at New Mexico for two seasons -- as a redshirt freshman he tied for the team lead with 47 receptions and led the Lobos with 809 receiving yards and four touchdown catches.

He then transferred to Iowa Western Community College, where he he became the first player in NJCAA history to catch 100 passes in a season. Long is eligible to play this season and already is enrolled. His coach at New Mexico is current Maryland offensive coordinator Mike Locksley.

Long grew up in Washington, D.C., and already knows Diggs. He told local reporters earlier this month, "I call him the 'Young Great One' because he is really good, and before he came to college we were on the field together playing. I know what he can do and he knows what I can do. He is a great guy to play beside."

The talent is there for the Terps. If Maryland can get a quarterback to stay healthy, this could be one of the better groups in the entire league.
There was nothing pretty about the way Maryland beat William & Mary last week, most especially on offense.

Growing pains are to be expected when there are so many young, inexperienced players seeing time. Maryland started a true freshman at quarterback in Perry Hills, and running back in Albert Reid. In all, 12 true freshmen played for the Terps last week. It has been 12 years since so many true freshmen saw the field in the opener in College Park.

[+] EnlargePerry Hills
AP Photo/Luis M. AlvarezTrue freshman Perry Hills is looking to improve after throwing three interceptions in his Maryland debut last Saturday.
But as always, the spotlight always falls onto the quarterback, whether you are a true freshman or senior. With Hills in charge, the offense only managed one score, and it came in the fourth quarter after trailing for most of the game. One score and 236 yards against an FCS opponent is not the way Maryland needed to start the season. Nor are all the turnovers -- four of them to be exact. Hills had three interceptions and Reid had a fumble.

So to say there is a lot of work to be done before its game against Temple on Saturday is to say the sun rises in the morning. But Edsall has been encouraged with the way Hills has put his debut game behind him during his preparations this week.

"He knows he has a lot of things to work on and improve, but he is one of those guys who can put it in the rear-view mirror pretty quickly," Edsall said this week. "I think that was evident by what took place on Saturday with the lack of success, so to speak, in the first half. He ended up putting it behind him. After the other interception to start the second half he takes the team down for a score. His demeanor and his approach have been very good. It’s what you expect from a freshman for his first start, to learn from it, make the corrections, and work to get better at the things you can control."

Offensive coordinator Mike Locksley said he thought Hills got rattled early in the game because of all the pressure William & Mary brought his way. He also thought Hills was a play behind in making his adjustments, something he has spoken to his quarterback about this week.

For his part, Hills said he has spent extra time going over the game tape to see how he can play better against the Owls. One of the biggest things he learned was the need to shrug off mistakes during the game.

"I know that if you keep thinking about it, it’s going to ruin you for the rest of the game," Hills said. "I have to put it behind me; it’s something as a quarterback that you have to learn to do. Sometimes bad things are going to happen, and you just have to learn how to deal with it, move on, and play each play."
Bob Davie and Charlie WeisAP PhotoBob Davie, left, is taking over a 1-11 New Mexico team; Charlie Weis inherited a 2-10 Kansas squad.


Bob Davie's and Charlie Weis' finales were one and the same, the broadcaster and the Florida assistant joking before the Gators' senior-night loss to Florida State last November.

Davie was barely a week into his new job, Weis was closing his first regular season in Gainesville, and here they were, chatting it up on sidelines of the Swamp, the nexus between the coaches on the verge of tightening once more.

"We were down there laughing a little bit, and all of a sudden a couple weeks later he's the head coach at Kansas," Davie, now New Mexico's head coach, said of Weis.

Act II for the former Notre Dame head coaches is underway this month, each scaling a precipice steeper than Touchdown Jesus, sans all the ballyhoo. Each has embraced his new locale, where the records that cost them their first head-coaching jobs would be cause for celebration.

The tasks, however, remain the same.

"I want to win," Weis said. "That is what I want. I want to win. I want this team to win. They haven't been winning -- that is what I want to do, win. The more wins, the happier I am.

"It puts a big damper on things, when things don't go well. I want to get this program where we are winning more than we are losing. I think when we get to that point, then we will aim even higher, but let's get to that point first."

Davie has admitted to being more comfortable in his own skin his second time around, no longer feeling the need to over-prepare or rehearse on a daily basis.

"At the end of the day, it's all the same process," Davie said. "The process for me at New Mexico is no different than it was at Notre Dame, and Notre Dame is no different than anywhere else -- coach the football team. It's all the same thing.

"Don't get so tied up in, 'Oh, we've always done it this way. We've always done it that way.' Let it rip, man."

It will be easier said than done for the two. The Lobos are coming off three consecutive 1-11 seasons that were notable for former head coach Mike Locksley's off-field troubles, and they could be 10 scholarships short of the 85-man limit this season. The Jayhawks, Orange Bowl winners just five years ago, have gone 18-31 in the four years since, with Mark Mangino and Turner Gill losing their jobs along the way.

Each school was projected last at Mountain West and Big 12 media days, respectively.

Weis will have a familiar leader in Lawrence, having landed one of his biggest recruiting coups from Notre Dame in quarterback Dayne Crist. The transfer, who started the Irish's past two openers but was plagued by injuries and a crowded position unit, said fans on the Big 12's most basketball-centric campus will come out so long as the production is there on the field.

"There's a great deal of excitement," said Crist, who is joined by former Irish teammates and Weis recruits Mike Ragone and Anthony McDonald. "The fans are very encouraged with what they've been seeing, and you can tell that it's just a fan base that's very eager to win. It hasn't been too long ago when they were in the Orange Bowl and things like that, so fans are ready to cheer for the football team. We just have to give them a reason to."

Ten years as an ESPN analyst gave Davie access he otherwise would have never had. Shortly after playing Michigan and USC, he recalled, he was meeting with coaches Lloyd Carr and Pete Carroll, getting up-close looks at how their programs operate.

[+] EnlargeCharlie Weis, Dayne Crist
William Purnell/Icon SMIFor his new gig at Kansas, Charlie Weis, rear, brought along former Irish QB Dayne Crist.
"You go from, you're lucky to even share a handshake, to all of a sudden you're sitting in their office watching them practice," Davie said. "So that was a tremendous opportunity to get out and do those things. But there's nothing like actually coaching. You can analyze things and comment, [but] the great part of coaching is you're actually doing it, and there's just nothing like that.

"I can still smell the grass at Notre Dame Stadium, what it felt like on Saturdays, and that never goes away. You always have that -- the simple things that are hard to explain."

In taking over at Albuquerque, where nearly half a century has passed without a conference title, the 57-year-old Davie is hoping to replicate some of the rebuilding jobs he has seen on the road over the past decade. Bill Snyder's resurrection of Kansas State -- the losingest program in FBS history upon his arrival 23 years ago -- has particularly served as inspiration.

"Just seeing -- and I'm not saying I'm Bill Snyder or saying I can ever do a job like he's done or be the coach that he is -- but just going around the country seeing different programs, to see what Bill Snyder has brought to a Kansas State, for example, is something to me that's tremendously rewarding and tremendously fulfilling, to try to do something like that," he said. "I've been to Manhattan, Kan., done games there. To me, that's what's fun. It's fun to really take a place and put your name on it, try to build it. I'm not saying we can do that but that's kind of the mission."

In late October 2001, just more than a month before being fired by Notre Dame after a 35-25 record over five seasons, Davie and his family built a house in South Bend. They didn't move to Scottsdale, Ariz., until three years later, when the Irish made a new hire.

"I'll be forever grateful for Charlie Weis because he bought my house in South Bend, so I'm a huge Charlie Weis fan," Davie said with a laugh. "I'd still have that house sitting there."

A 35-27 record over five seasons with the Irish did Weis in in 2009, and now, like Davie, he is hoping the lessons learned from the spotlight of one of college football's biggest platforms translate to a second, smaller stage.

"I am more motivated than I have ever been to make this program successful," Weis said. "There might be more unknowns, but I have the same obligation to the administration, to the fan base and to the university. I have the same obligation to work as hard as I possibly can to get us as good as we possibly can be as quick as we possibly can.

"I mean, OK, Notre Dame has a big, national fan base down there, but what does that mean? Fans are fans; alumni is alumni. It's still the same to work as hard as we can collectively both as a coaching staff and players to try to get this right as fast as we can. That's why I'm here. Now it's time to go to work."
Back-to-back top-10 recruiting classes have already begun to separate Florida State and Clemson from the rest of the Atlantic Division -- at least on paper.

It’s only news, though, when those programs don’t bring in some of the nation’s most talented players.

Clemson, after all, just won its first ACC title for the first time since 1991. Florida State last year couldn’t beat Wake Forest. Which is why there is no reason for the Deacs or anyone else in the division to surrender just yet.

“They key for us is not how many stars they come in with, it’s how good they play when they’re juniors and seniors,” Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe said. “At least that’s our key. For us it’s all about developing players. It’s a standard joke among coaches, ‘How’d your recruiting go? Well, we’ll know in a couple of years.’ Sometimes that’s good to laugh and giggle about, but absolutely at Wake Forest, we know when they’re juniors and seniors if we’ve done the right thing in recruiting.

“For us, I think we know where we are. We’re a development program. We’ve got to do a great job of coaching our kids in the offseason and the weight room and out on the practice field, so by the time they’re juniors and seniors, there are a lot of other teams in the league that look at them and say, ‘Man, I wish I would’ve taken that guy.’”

Guys like Alphonso Smith, Aaron Curry, Chris Givens and Joe Looney. At Boston College, guys like Montel Harris and Luke Kuechly.

“Here’s the way I’ve always looked at the competition,” said BC coach Frank Spaziani. “As the competition gets better, everybody else better get better and move forward. There are a lot of other areas to it than just that.”

Just how much of a talent discrepancy is there within the division? Can BC compensate for a lack of stars with its hard-working, disciplined, blue-collar traits? Can Wake Forest continue to develop diamonds out of its “recruiting puddle?” NC State already beat a No. 7-ranked Clemson team, but can it win consistently? Will the hire of offensive coordinator Mike Locksley change Maryland recruiting?

Florida State and Clemson are ahead of the race, there’s no question about it. But until either one of them plays and wins with more consistency, it won’t be a two-team race in the ACC.
Maryland has its new offensive coordinator. It has its new defensive coordinator. The recruiting class has been inked.

The Terps are ready to move forward and put their abysmal 2-10 season behind them, but there’s only one piece missing -- the starting quarterback.

C.J. Brown
Jeff Vest/Icon SMIC.J. Brown took over the starting job last season after Danny O'Brien broke his arm.
Danny O'Brien and C.J. Brown, who were both used last year and sometimes in the same game, will continue to play out their competition this offseason, but O'Brien, who is still recovering from a broken left arm, will be limited this spring.

First-year offensive coordinator Mike Locksley said on Wednesday he is giving both quarterbacks a chance to start over.

“My thing is, and I told both of these guys -- I haven’t watched a lot of tape on either of them from last season or previous seasons because I wanted to have a blank slate when I go in and evaluate,” Locksley said. “Obviously Danny is a very talented quarterback, and I think he’s had some success here in both systems, whether it was two years ago in the West Coast, pro-style stuff, and last year he had some success in the spread system they’re running.

“I’m a guy who really believes in doing what your personnel allows you to do,” Locksley said. “We’ve got some tight ends and fullbacks. If you study our offense, we play under center, we play in the gun. We run power plays, we run lead plays, we spread them out and run zone read, we run zone read option, so a lot of that stuff will be predicated on our quarterback and what they’re capable of executing, as well as who the playmakers are with that personnel.”

There was some speculation this offseason as to whether or not O’Brien would return for the 2012 season or transfer. Locksley said he hasn’t talked to O’Brien about that.

“You hear those rumors,” Locksley said. “To me, I didn’t address it because unless I heard it from him, I wouldn’t address it. Everything I’ve talked to Danny about and C.J. about are things we want to do on offense and how I plan on shaping the offense to fit what they’re capable of executing.”

Locksley said he’d prefer, though, if only one of them were executing it this fall.

Terps' DC Todd Bradford won't return

January, 13, 2012
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Maryland defensive coordinator Todd Bradford will not return in 2012, the school announced on Friday. Both parties agreed to a negotiated buyout of Bradford’s remaining contract.

“We appreciate Todd’s efforts this past season and wish him well in his future endeavors," Coach Randy Edsall said in a prepared statement. "It is the right time for us to move forward in a different direction.”

There's only one direction for Maryland to go at this point -- up.

Edsall, whose six-year contract was too lucrative for this season to cost him his own job, has now fired both of his coordinators. Gary Crowton has already been replaced by Mike Locksley. Bradford's dismissal should come as no surprise after the 2-10 finish. Maryland was ranked No. 108 in the country in total defense and No. 102 in scoring defense. With the move, Clemson and Maryland are now both in need of defensive coordinators.
Maryland is practically writing its own book of bad business decisions.

Offensive coordinator Mike Locksley’s contract, which includes some of the most absurd incentives I’ve ever heard of, is the latest eyebrow-raising move by athletic director Kevin Anderson.

You would think that a $500k salary and a need to shake the ghosts of the past would be enough motivation for Locksley to succeed in College Park as both a coordinator and a recruiter. Oh no. Anderson took it even further:

Incentive: Locksley will receive $25,000 if Maryland is in the top 40 of the Rivals.com or Scout.com rankings on signing day. He also will receive $20,000 if the Terps rank among the top four teams in the ACC on signing day.

Problem: This is an embarrassing endorsement of fan-based recruiting services which coaches repeatedly, emphatically insist they do not pay attention to -- nor should they. Coaches should be trusting their own evaluations, not the star systems of others. This encourages the opposite. Not only that, but if Maryland isn’t bringing in top 40 classes -- regardless of the recruiting service -- there’s a problem. Add to that the danger of dangling thousands in front of a coach who is already immersed in the sketchy business of recruiting, and there’s even more temptation for the recruiter to break the rules. Here’s an idea: How about just giving Locksley a bonus for each recruiting class that sticks around long enough to graduate and finish in the Associated Press Top 25?

Incentive: Locksley will receive $15,000 each time Maryland finishes in the top four in the ACC in total offense and scoring offense, and an additional $10,000 if the Terps lead the conference in either category.

Problem: Poor William & Mary. Talk about incentive to run up the score on the little guys in the nonconference schedule, or to pull a West Virginia and keep throwing in the end zone when you’re up six touchdowns or so. Isn’t this what Locksley’s salary is for? Isn’t this what he’s getting paid to do? Score points??

Here's the kicker ... all of that money and those incentives completely trump the maximum of $5,000 Locksley would receive if the graduation success rate is greater than or equal to 85 percent. It's more than the $5,000 max he would get if the APR is greater than or equal to .950. Lead the ACC in total offense, though, and Locksley just got $25k richer.

Unlike former offensive coordinator Gary Crowton, who was fired after just one season, you better believe this contract was actually signed. And don’t be surprised if Anderson winds up paying for it.

Early 2012 ACC power rankings

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It’s way too early for this. But that’s the fun of it. Heck, the ACC is impossible to predict from week to week, let alone in January. Consider this a starting point. A base for your offseason arguments. Don’t like it? I’ve got a mailbag. Learn how to use it. Let the debate begin …

1. Florida State: I know, I know, you’ve heard this one before. But it’s impossible to ignore the fact that nine starters return to one of the nation’s best defenses. Quarterback EJ Manuel will be back, and the Noles again have some of the nation’s best recruits.

2. Clemson: Quarterback Tajh Boyd and receiver Sammy Watkins were record-setters in their first seasons as starters. There’s plenty of incoming talent, and the Tigers should contend for the Atlantic Division again if the defense improves.

3. Virginia Tech: This staff knows how to develop players, and that quality will again be critical as the Hokies have to rebuild their offensive line and will lose their top playmaker in David Wilson. Quarterback Logan Thomas could be the best in the ACC, though, if the supporting cast emerges.

4. NC State: Consider the Pack the darkhorse candidate for the 2012 race. If NC State can stay healthy, it should have two of the league’s top players in quarterback Mike Glennon and cornerback David Amerson.

5. Georgia Tech: The majority of the Jackets’ roster returns, and it should be better after growing pains in 2011. With an experienced offensive line, and the bulk of playmakers returning, Georgia Tech should again be a contender in the Coastal Division.

6. Virginia: If the Cavaliers were playing for the division title in just the second season under coach Mike London, there’s no reason to doubt them in his third. There were some important lessons learned down the stretch, and it was a strong season for UVa to build on.

7. Wake Forest: The Demon Deacons were a field goal away from winning the Atlantic Division title in 2011, and quarterback Tanner Price is good enough to put them in position to do it again.

8. North Carolina: The Tar Heels have another transition to go through with first-year coach Larry Fedora, and the defense will have to fill some big shoes. Offensively, though, there is enough in place that UNC can surprise some people in the Coastal Division race.

9. Boston College: The Eagles’ strong finish to 2011 left a lot of optimism within the program, and despite the loss of linebacker Luke Kuechly, the defense should still be strong. The return of running back Montel Harris will certainly help, but again the team must adjust to another offensive coordinator.

10. Miami: The biggest thing Miami has in its favor right now is a strong recruiting class. With eight starters leaving early for the NFL draft and the departures of the Class of 2008 -- plus possible NCAA sanctions looming -- there’s a lot of uncertainty in the program now.

11. Maryland: Look at it this way: It can’t get much worse. The hire of Mike Locksley as offensive coordinator will help, especially in recruiting, but how much, how fast? And has the dust finally settled, or will there be more changes?

12. Duke: Somebody has to be last, and until Duke proves otherwise, it’s status quo in Durham. Duke suffered from many of the same problems last year that it did in 2010.

Mike Locksley hire a gamble

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Let me get this straight:

In order to improve Maryland football and the dreadful perception of it right now, coach Randy Edsall hired an offensive coordinator who has more baggage than Santa’s sleigh.

[+] EnlargeMike Locksley
Beth Hall/US PresswireMike Locksley is expected to boost Maryland's recruiting under coach Randy Edsall.
There is a reason or three Mike Locksley was not hired as Maryland’s head coach.

Reason No. 1: A former New Mexico assistant accused Locksley of choking and punching him.

Reason No. 2: A former New Mexico administrative assistant accused Locksley of sexual harassment.

Reason No. 3: He was 2-26 at New Mexico.

The gold star on Locksley’s resume is his ability to recruit. It’s indisputable. So is the fact that a New Mexico recruit who was pulled over and arrested for aggravated DWI was driving a car registered to Locksley.

In the end, recruiting is what this is all about, otherwise, this hire makes absolutely no sense considering the criticism Edsall has already faced after a disastrous 2-10 season. Recruiting has been at the heart of Maryland’s problems in recent years, but Locksley can help turn that around. He knows the D.C. high schools, he has relationships with the coaches, and this hire should concern opposing recruiters and create some buzz amongst weary Maryland fans. The transition to a pro-style, multiple offense should also be intriguing to embattled quarterback Danny O'Brien, who is well-suited for it but had a trying season and was benched in Gary Crowton’s system. Whether it’s enough to keep O'Brien from transferring remains to be seen.

Locksley’s first priority should be recruiting the quarterback he already has.

Because of the widely reported off-field incidents in Locksley’s past, he returns to College Park with a dark shadow looming over him. The only way to shake them will be to win and avoid any similar reports. Locksley, though, doesn’t put any stock into them.

“There’s been a lot of things written and said obviously over the last two and a half years that have no validity to it and have been unfounded,” Locksley said. “I’m from the theory of common sense that had the things that had been said and constantly written about me had the validity or had any scope to it, I think the best proof is that the University of New Mexico has honored the contractual obligations they had to me. Had those things taken place the way they had been reported, I venture to say with the lack of success we had on the field, they probably wouldn’t have had to honor their contract.”

Locksley also said he had “no regrets” about his time at New Mexico. Edsall said he’s not concerned about the perception of this hire.

“I’m not concerned about that,” he said. “We’ve talked to the people, talked to Mike, and Mike is going to be a tremendous asset here to us as we continue to move forward with our program, and be a mentor, coach and parent to our players here at the University of Maryland.”

Locksley is such a good recruiter he already got Edsall to buy his sales pitch.

Now they both have to sell this one to Maryland fans.

3-point stance: Davie back in the game

November, 17, 2011
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1. Remember when Notre Dame fired Bob Davie for having the temerity to go 35-25 (.583)? Neither of his successors, Ty Willingham (.583) or Charlie Weis (.565), surpassed him. New Mexico announced Wednesday that Davie will be its next head coach. It has been 11 seasons since Davie last ran a practice or coached a game, a longer hiatus than any current FBS head coach has on his resume. Given the mess that Mike Locksley made of the Lobos, you have to assume that Davie will have time to scrape off his rust.

2. Love this note that ACC blogger Heather Dinich sent me. North Carolina State sophomore corner David Amerson leads the FBS with 10 interceptions, three more than anyone else. Not only has no defender picked off 11 passes since safety Jim Leonhard of Wisconsin in 2002, but if Amerson maintains his pace of one interception per game, he will be the first to do so over an entire season since safety Terry Hoage of Georgia in 1982. You now may find Hoage in the College Football Hall of Fame.

3. If No. 11 Houston falters down the stretch, there are two other non-AQs waiting to qualify for an automatic BCS bid. If either No. 19 TCU wins the Mountain West Conference or No. 20 Southern Miss knocks off Houston to win Conference USA, it’s possible that one of them will reach 16th or higher in the final BCS standings. That would qualify the higher-ranked team of the two of them for a BCS bid. One of them will end up in the Fiesta or the Sugar.

Report: Bob Davie hired at New Mexico

November, 16, 2011
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Bob Davie has been hired as the next coach at New Mexico, ESPN's Joe Schad is reporting.

Davie, who coached at Notre Dame from 1997-2001, is set to replace Mike Locksley. The Lobos are in need of a major rebuilding project. Locksley won just two games in his two-plus seasons at New Mexico. He was fired in September, and New Mexico just won its first game of the season last week.

The Lobos have not had a winning season since 2007. Davie, who works as an analyst for ESPN, last served as a head coach with the Irish 10 years ago. He was 35-25 as head coach at Notre Dame, where he had the tough task of succeeding Lou Holtz.

Weekend Rewind: Non-AQs

September, 26, 2011
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Let's take a look at back at Week 4 for the non-AQs:

The good: How about a hand for Temple and Southern Miss, two non-AQ teams that took down the ACC on Saturday. The Owls dominated Maryland 34-7, and took particular pleasure in the win after hearing some trash talk from the Terps players before the victory. Temple has been impressive since the outset of the season, and nearly upset Penn State last week, too. Coach Steve Addazio has done a terrific job in his first year taking over the program. … Meanwhile, Southern Miss beat Virginia 30-24 -- its first road win over an AQ school on the road in five tries. … San Jose State ended a 13-game losing streak and notched its first conference win since defeating New Mexico State 13-10 on Nov. 28, 2009.

The bad:It was not a great day for the Mountain West. San Diego State was supposed to give Michigan a fight but instead lost 28-7 against former coach Brady Hoke. UNLV, a week removed from beaten Hawaii, lost at home to Southern Utah 41-16. Incredibly, Southern Utah returned three interceptions for touchdowns. New Mexico lost to Sam Houston State in overtime, 48-45. Just before kickoff, a teenager claiming to be a recruit was arrested on DWI charges in Mike Locksley’s car. Finally fed up with Locksley, New Mexico fired him Sunday afternoon. In two-plus seasons, Locksley went 2-26 and the program became a national laughingstock. To Lobos fans, this probably should go into the “good” category because they can now get the fresh start they have so desperately wanted.

UCF has got to fix its special teams. For the second straight week, that unit cost them, this time in a 24-17 loss to BYU. The Knights allowed Cody Hoffman to score on a 93-yard kickoff return, and a muffed punt by J.J. Worton set up another score. Last week against FIU, UCF also had a muffed punt that led to a touchdown and the Knights lost 17-10.

The heartbreak: The WAC had the toughest day of all the conferences in the hurting department. Two teams lost in overtime, and another with 44 seconds left in the game.

We start with Utah State. The Aggies have got to have their collective heart in pieces at this point. The closing minutes against Auburn doomed the Aggies thanks to a special teams error. The same can be said of their loss to Colorado State on Saturday night. Utah State saw its 21-13 lead evaporate after Eric Moats dropped a punt with 2:17 to play. Colorado State recovered and Chris Nwoke scored on a 1-yard run with 42 seconds left. The Rams got the 2-point conversion to send the game into overtime. The teams traded touchdowns in the first two extra periods. But Utah State decided to go for 2 in the second overtime to win the game. Robert Turbin was stopped short and Colorado State won 35-34. "The reason we went for 2 is because I believe in the team," coach Gary Andersen said afterward. "I believe we can score from the 3-yard line at any time and I surely believe we can score from the 1.5 yard line. I would do it again in one second. I’m always going to coach aggressive."

Louisiana Tech must know the feeling. Two weeks in a row the Bulldogs have come close to pulling the upset. Two weeks in a row they fell just short. Last week they blew a huge lead to Houston. This week, they did not have enough to take down Mississippi State. Freshman quarterback Nick Isham threw two critical interceptions -- one late in the game, and one in overtime -- that made a huge difference in the 26-20 loss.

Nevada has not played particularly well this season, but that looked like it was about to change at Texas Tech. The Wolf Pack built a 28-14 third-quarter lead, and Cody Fajardo seemed to provide a nice spark off the bench. But the defense -- which was supposed to be a strength this year -- collapsed and the Red Raiders scored with 44 seconds left when Seth Doege threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to Eric Ward for the 35-34 win.

But nothing beats the case Toledo has. The Rockets had a win snatched from them thanks to a mistake by the officials in a 33-30 overtime loss to Syracuse. The school has asked the MAC to contact the Big East and request the win be given to the Rockets.

Injury report: TCU lost starting linebacker Tanner Brock for the season with a foot injury. The Horned Frogs will petition for a medical redshirt. TCU has shifted Tank Carder to the outside. … Air Force suffered injuries to starting linemen Zach Payne (knee) and Cody Miller (leg). … UAB quarterback Bryan Ellis suffered a concussion against East Carolina and was taken off the field on a backboard in a 28-23 loss.

Keenum watch: Case Keenum threw for 415 yards and two touchdowns in just two and a half quarters of play, and Houston recorded its first shutout since 1999 in a 56-0 rout of Georgia State on Saturday. He passed passed former BYU quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Ty Detmer for third on the NCAA all-time passing yardage list, and passed former Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell for third on the NCAA career total offense list.

Helmet stickers

Brandon Rutley, RB, San Jose State. Rutley had 209 yards rushing on 33 carries -- including a career-long 66 yard scoring run -- in a 34-24 win over New Mexico State. It was the first 100-plus yard rushing game of his career, and he became the first San Jose State player to rush for 200 or more yards since the 2004 season.

Austin Davis, QB, Southern Miss. Davis finished 27 for 41 for 313 yards with no interceptions in a 30-24 win over Virginia. He threw touchdown passes of 32 and 3 yards to Bolden and a 20-yarder to Ryan Balentine.

Bernard Pierce, RB, Temple. Pierce set a school record with five rushing touchdowns in a 38-7 win over Maryland. Pierce had 149 yards on 32 carries.

Deon Long, New Mexico. Long had nine receptions for 209 yards and caught three touchdown passes, and returned a kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown in a loss to Sam Houston State. His 378 all-purpose yards set a school and Mountain West record.

Blaine Gautier, QB, Louisiana. Gautier, making just his fourth career start, led the Cajuns to a stunning 36-31 upset at FIU. Gautier guided the team to a season-high 419 yards of total offense and did not commit a turnover. He totaled 307 yards (221 passing/86 rushing) and tossed three touchdown passes.

Andrea Adelson talks with the coach about his keys to success for the upcoming season.

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