Gilman star Kai Locksley's commitment to Florida State makes sense for football, family reasons
By By Don Markus
The Baltimore Sun|
Jul 31, 2014 at 5:54 PM
The announcement Thursday that Gilman quarterback Kai Locksley had committed to play at Florida State was disappointing news for Maryland fans who desperately wanted to see the four-star prospect in College Park in 2015.
In the long term, it wasn't awful news for Terps coach Randy Edsall and, more importantly, for his offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, who also happens to be Kai Locksley's father.
At Maryland, not only would Kai have had the pressure of living up to the hype of being among the state's top-rated recruits, but his performance also would have been directly tied to his father's livelihood.
If Kai was honest in telling me that he would have considered Maryland regardless of his father's coaching there, a part of me believes Edsall might have had a better shot at getting him if Mike Locksley wasn't on his staff.
Those I talked with for the story all brought up the difficulties of the father-son coaching dynamic.
Cody Hawkins, a former college quarterback who played to mixed reviews under his father, Dan, then the head coach at Colorado, wondered whether it ultimately might have cost his father the job.
"Sometimes, you can be a great father, and you can be a great football coach, but I don't know if you can be both simultaneously," Hawkins said.
As much as the younger Hawkins believed playing for his father helped them forge an even tighter bond, "there's a lot of BS you have to deal with" from outside the program, he said.
While NCAA bylaws prohibited Mike Locksley from speaking specifically about what it would be like to coach Kai, he recalled how both he and his two older sons became targets when their respective teams struggled. It was especially true with Meiko, who converted from quarterback to cornerback at New Mexico.
"All of a sudden, it's not just that Locks can't call plays, but [the son] stinks, too," Locksley said in June. "That's when the Papa Bear in me [came] out."
Though acknowledging the positives of playing close to home for a team he rooted for growing up, even Kai Locksley was aware of "some complications and stuff that needs to be worked out."
From a recruiting standpoint, those familiar with the process always considered the Terps a long shot, partly because of the programs they were going up against but also because of the tenuous history of coach-quarterback relationships when they share the same DNA.
"It usually doesn't work out very well," Mike Farrell, national recruiting director for Rivals.com, said in June.
The fact that Maryland was still in the picture down the stretch could have been a diplomatic move, and Kai Locksley's decision to choose the Seminoles might have been solidified when he made his recruiting trip to Tallahassee in June.
Edsall was in a particularly awkward position, caught in the middle of Locksley family dynamics and his own career in College Park.
“To some extent, Randy has to want Kai Locksley" and not not care about family dynamics, Farrell said. "But [Edsall] is also smart enough to know this — not only the family dynamic but also the perception it sends to [high school] quarterbacks next year and the year after that."
Getting Kai Locksley would have been nearly as big a recruiting coup as keeping Stefon Diggs at home, but Diggs didn't have the same kind of baggage the younger Locksley would have had.
"They kind of were my dark horse throughout this whole process," Kai Locksley said of the Terps in an interview The Baltimore Sun's Katherine Dunn. "They were a school I felt could, out of nowhere, just pop up, but we kind of decided together that it was real hard to play for your dad, especially at the level that he's at and [Maryland] being a strong program and a Division I program. It's much tougher to do it in college and we decided it was better to go elsewhere and grow myself as my own man."
Edsall also might have had a hard time recruiting quarterbacks until at least Kai Locksley's junior year, and maybe longer. Gilman coach Biff Poggi said he knew of "a couple of quarterbacks" Maryland lost while it was still recruiting Kai Locksley.
Thursday's announcement frees up Edsall and Mike Locksley to pay more attention to a couple of promising quarterbacks in redshirt freshman Shane Cockerille, Kai Lockley's former Gilman teammate, and Gage Shaffer, a 6-foot-7 prospect from West Virginia in the class of 2015 already committed.
Another recruit who now might look more seriously at the Terps is Bullis' Dwayne Haskins Jr., a rising junior whom Rivals.com has called "the hottest recruit in America." With Kai Locksley headed to Tallahassee, Haskins might ultimately be the quarterback prospect who stays home.
Poggi, whose sons played for him before going on to play for Football Bowl Subdivision programs, might have said it best in June when he talked about about the possibility of Maryland bringing in Kai Locksley.
"It's dangerous to the [Maryland] program," Poggi said. "Guys start thinking about favoritism, and they get a group of guys in the locker room to agree with them. It's a disaster. They [Edsall and Mike Locksley] really have to think about that carefully. You have to be careful what you wish for; you just might get it."