The news that Maryland is poised to hire Mike Locksley as its offensive coordinator created a buzz in local recruiting circles, nearly all of it positive as high school coaches believe the move will help the Terrapins compete for the region’s top players.
“It would be a good opportunity for the area,” said Carroll Coach Rick Houchens, who has sent recruits to play for Locksley at each of his assistant coaching stops at Maryland, Florida and Illinois. Recruits “would have to look at Maryland and give this serious consideration as opposed to looking outside the state.”
Said Forestville Coach Charles Harley, who had four players on Maryland’s roster this past season: “Immediately guys will be willing to give it another shot with Locks. Guys who may be mad with Maryland for whatever reason. They get back in the door with a lot of [Prince George’s] schools and [District] schools immediately, because he is a guy people know and trust. … I think they get back in the game immediately with some local coaches and players.”
Consider this: While the Terrapins’ current recruiting class is rated at the bottom of the Atlantic Coast Conference by Rivals.com, the addition of Locksley could change a lot, even at such a late stage in the recruiting cycle. Players are unable to finalize their college choices until the National Letter-of-Intent signing period begins Feb. 1. Until then, if things go as planned, expect Locksley to make plenty of trips around the Beltway and crush his cell phone battery trying to change a few minds.
Good Counsel standout running back Wes Brown? H.D. Woodson standout defensive back Kenny Crawley and Potomac (Md.) speedster Ron Darby, who committed to Tennessee and Notre Dame, respectively? Carroll tight end-defensive end E.J. Norris (Connecticut) or offensive lineman Derrick Nelson (Rutgers)? Expect Locksley to work on them.
Not everyone is convinced things will change. One local coach said that while recruits and their coaches will listen to Locksley, there will be caution because of the Terrapins’ tumultuous season. “Bottom line is this, if the head ain’t right, the tail ain’t right,” the coach said. “Kids know that.”
Still, many recruits will be paying attention, including former Good Counsel standout Zach Dancel, who started the final seven games this past season as a freshman at New Mexico but has received a release from his scholarship. Dancel has been in contact with Virginia and Georgia Tech, among others, according to his father, Bernie.
“If Locks is the guy, the obvious reason they want him is his recruiting ties,” said Bernie Dancel, who was an assistant coach at Good Counsel the previous four seasons and with whom Brown lives. “I think this is a big gain if they get a recruiter like Locks. Obviously [Coach] Randy [Edsall] and [Athletic Director Kevin] Anderson aren’t happy with the recruiting going on.
“It’s a positive for Maryland. I don’t think it’s a positive for schools trying to get kids out of Maryland.”
Brown, a 6-foot, 200-pound senior, recently took an official visit to Vanderbilt, where Maryland’s one-time coach-in-waiting James Franklin is the head coach. He also plans visits to Miami, Colorado and perhaps South Carolina. Maryland was out of the picture previously, but might be back in; Brown had been interested in New Mexico until Locksley was fired on Sept. 25.
“When the rumor started circulating [Maryland] was going to [hire] Locks, [Vanderbilt] started pressing harder. I think they were concerned that could change it,” Bernie Dancel said. “I think if Locksley comes, it could potentially change the minds of kids; some had their minds set on not going to Maryland. It potentially opens the door.”
One person who follows college recruiting carefully suggested that by hiring Locksley, Maryland might be able to re-establish relationships from some of its former players who felt alienated in recent years. That in turn could lead to more donations and also help recruit high school players. There also is a feeling that some disgruntled boosters, who have been unhappy with the direction of program, might also pick up their giving, knowing Locksley’s role in Maryland’s success during his six seasons as an assistant.
“I’ve seen him in action with my guys,” Houchens said. “He is a pit bull in a dogfight in recruiting. He can get in there with the best of them. The strongest asset he has, not just being a local guy – that only goes so far – he has a genuine ability to relate to young people. He can really get their attention and hit on the most important parts and he has a track record.”
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