Local Prep Coaches React To Mike Locksley Interim Tag
BALTIMORE, Md. -- In Part Two of our local prep coaches’ reaction piece to the Mike Locksley interim tag/appointment this month, we found ourselves at Gilman (Baltimore, Md.) last week where there was an aggregation of top coaches/power-brokers eager to see how the experiment goes with favorite-son Locksley, who the coaches have known for decades during his three stints at UMD and beyond.
Part One dealt with Gilman Head Coach Biff Poggi's reaction, following Gilman's win over Friendship Collegiate Academy (Washington, DC) on Oct. 23 at the Roland Park school, while Part Two covers FCA coach Mike Hunter, a longtime assistant and now head coach at the DC power, and longtime Gilman assistants/local coaching mainstays Bill McGregor and Chris Baucia.
How the next month unfolds, on and off the field for Locksley and the Terps, remains to be seen as for his chances ascending the top job. The Penn State loss was a heart breaker in game one of his interim regime, and this week the Terps travel to No. 10 and undefeated Iowa, where it will only get more difficult. But the local community is watching closely as the future of Maryland football unfolds these next several weeks.
McGregor, an institution as head coach at DeMatha Catholic High School (Hyattsville, Md.) for decades, lauded Randy Edsall for the work he did for Terrapin student-athletes off the field and in the classroom during his tenure. "But, unfortunately, the hard part in some people's eyes is he didn't win enough games. I think he is a fantastic person, but that's the hard part of this business," McGregor said upon first hearing the news.
McGregor said he has known Locksley "seemingly forever," his DeMatha team playing Locksley (when Locksley was a player in the early 1980s) at Ballou High School (Washington, DC).
"It's kinda ironic," McGregor said. "My DeMatha team played against him and I didn't know it was Mike Locksley then. But they had this real big running back that was real good and tough. And years later you find out it was Mike. So you have known of Mike forever. And then as a [college] coach, whenever he'd first start out, well he'd always go to the DC area first."
Those long ties and relationships have built up over the years, and McGregor said that's where it starts.
"I think Mike would do a great job wherever he is, but hopefully it would be nice to see him get the job at Maryland," McGregor said. "Mike is committed, a great fit, a great guy. I mean, everybody knows Mike, appreciates Mike, everybody knows the kind of outstanding recruiter is, and that he gets the job done."
McGregor said that over the years, all of the players he has sent from DeMatha to Locksley -- be it at Maryland, Illinois, New Mexico -- that "Mike always made sure the kids did the right thing, went to class, studied...and he always took care of them around the university, as it should be. With his relationship with them and things like that."
McGregor said the local DC turf has for too long been lightly represented at the state school, "and if the local kids stay home, well I think you are competing for the national championship at Maryland. It's that simple. Look at Cyrus [Jones/Alabama], Jalen [Tabor/Florida], Kendall [Fuller/Virginia Tech], and I think all three of them were pre-season All Americans this year, and that's all just at one position [defensive back]. So if the local kids stay home it will be a tremendous opportunity for the next football coach at Maryland. And of course we are all pulling for Mike. His son [Kai] went here, and Mike is just a great person and a guy to represent you around here and keep those kids home."
McGregor said it's a tall order to take over as interim at the mid-point of a season. But if someone can make a run at it, be it on the field or off, he believes Locksley will do whatever it takes to keep the team competitive and inspired, as seen last week despite the loss to Penn State. And there's that off-the-field component of talent acquisition as well, which is such a key at Maryland now. Said McGregor:
"When I think local recruiters, ‘Locks’ is the best. Three guys come to mind: ‘Locks,’ and then obviously James [Franklin] has done a great job, and then Larry Johnson. All three are great guys....Larry back to when he was a football coach at McDonough, and my association with him and the Big 33 back then. James I have known a long time, but ‘Locks, you are partial to ‘Locks’ and you would love to see it happen here at the state school."
Also on the Gilman staff, and formerly at DeMatha and owner of the Quarterback Factory training school in Anne Arundel County (which has produced top quarterbacks going back to Scott McBrien, Kevin Hogan, Shane Cockerille and many in between), Chris Baucia is the area's foremost quarterbacks' coach and also serves as Gilman's offensive coordinator. He said his reaction to the Edsall firing two weeks ago was mixed.
"My thoughts on Randy and what happened are two-fold: you loved him as a person, and he always treated you well as a person. But I am also very excited to see where Mike is able to take the program," Baucia said.
Baucia said the possibilities are endless with Locksley in charge, in all the local recruiting ways of course, but there is a misconception there as well, he said.
"I think [recruiting] is the biggest misconception with Mike, that he is just such a great recruiter," Baucia said. "I think he is equally, or better, a football coach. And I have known him all the way back since his Army days. And I have seen him go through the ranks and yes, he is a great recruiter. But truthfully, he has helped me grow so much as a coach that I really respect him as one of the finest football coaches I know."
Baucia said Locksley has always been there for a phone call as a resource to pick his brains, "where some people, they only want your kids and they will never take the time. So whether we have a recruit they [Maryland] wants or not, I can call him up at any time of the day and he would be willing to help to make our team better."
As for local recruiting and the Locksley factor, Baucia said:
"I think for Maryland it's not about who they are not getting, it's about getting the right ones for Maryland," Baucia said. "So I think that is the thing I would like to see them go forward in. And yes, Mike can go in anywhere in the state of Maryland, DC, Northern Virginia, you name it, everywhere, and he is going to have a shot at having that kid having Maryland in his top one or two because it is so phenomenal what he does.
"But I think Maryland needs to just focus on getting the right one for them, and not worry about anything else. Buy into Maryland, buy into the system, what Mike's teaching, and move on from there."
Baucia said the two talk regularly about Kai Locksley, Mike's son, who Baucia coached at Gilman and trained at the Quarterback Factory and is now a freshman at Texas.
On the interim tag and period, Baucia said it will be a challenge on the field taking over mid-season, but believes Locksley will thrive under the circumstances and relish it.
"I think this is what he is born to do. And I think it is something that he cherishes and looks forward to," Baucia said. "The challenge…. I think just let the players go out and play and see where the ball bounces. But I know they will have a great time playing the game under Mike.
"And they just need to find the guy who will do the best job for Maryland not right now, but in the long run. And that's a true Maryland guy, and there is no more of a true Maryland guy that can come in there and take the program than Mike,"
Across the Gilman football field that day, Coach Mike Hunter, whose FCA program has sent UMD the likes of Yannick Ngakoue, Cavon Walker, Derwin Gray, Jermaine Carter and others, has known Locksley for more than a decade.
"I was excited for him when I first heard the news," Hunter said. "He deserves the chance to prove he can be the head coach at Maryland as he is a local guy who is going to bring some energy and buzz throughout the high school community and area by having a guy like him at Maryland."
Hunter, who also has Jalen Tabor at Florida, said local recruiting would take off for the Terps with Locksley at the helm
"Look, this is a hotbed for national recruits,” Hunter said. "And having a guy like Locksley who knows the landscape, knows the people here, knows the people and what they are all about, would really help the University of Maryland become a national power right here in our backyard."
Hunter said it begins with relationships and knowing the culture of the DC area.
"He has a great personality, and he understands the people and the kids here as opposed to someone coming from a different location that may not know our kids and some of the things they have to deal with," Hunter said.
Hunter said he texted Locksley on his first day of his interim post, and is pulling for him, as he said all local coaches are.
"We have an open door with them, and they have been good for us coming in and recruiting our kids. And obviously we have been good to them by sending a number of kids to their program. But it is an open door, as we are allowed to come up and watch practice, sit in meetings, sit down with the coaches. They are teaching us things, they let us pick their brains, help us become better coaches."
Hunter said the Big Ten is unforgiving, but added he has seen an emotional uplift already in the program the last two weeks.
"It's a tough job. But I think he is going to be able to do it. The kids are going to be energized and behind him, the alumni are going to be behind him, and hopefully it shows up in the win column," Hunter said. "You hear a louder buzz now, especially from the local players and high school coaches. They are really excited about Maryland football. Everyone is happy for him, and having Locksley out there, well it's like having one of our own."
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