This is the third part of a continuing look at the candidates for the Syracuse Head Coaching job. A full rundown of the candidates can be found here.
Now we take a look at one of the hottest assistants in the country, Illinois offensive coordinator Mike Locksley
2006-present Illinois (Offensive Coordinator/ QB)
2005 Illinois (Offensive Coordinator/Tight Ends)
2003-2004 Florida (RB/Recruiting Coordinator)
1998-2002 Maryland (RB/Recruiting Coordinator)
1997 Maryland (RB)
1996 Army (WE/TE)
1995 Pacific (Linebackers)
1992 Towson (DB/Special Teams)
Who is he?: Locksley has been the offensive coordinator at Illinois since 2005, following Ron Zook from Florida where he was a recruting coordinator and running backs coach. He held the same position at Maryland before moving on to Gainsville.
In addition to interviewing for the Syracuse vacancy, Locksley has interviewed for the Clemson opening as well but lost out on that job.
What does he bring to the job?: Locksley is unquestionably one of the best recruiters in the country. Along with Ron Zook, he has brought in great classes to both Illinois and Florida. Here are how his recruiting classes have ranked according to Rivals.com:
While Locksley and Zook didn’t have a chance to finish the job in Florida, their players were a key to Florida’s national championship.
Not only can he recruit, but he can coach. Under Locksley (and behind QB Juice Williams) the Illini offense has come alive. This season they were the top passing team in the Big Ten (19th in the nation). They were also 19th nationally in total offense and 41st in scoring offense.
Locksley is able to tailor his offense to the personnel he has. While this years team is a pass heavy attack, last year’s team focused on running the ball with Rashard Mendenhall and Williams leading the Illini to a national ranking of 5th in rushing offense. While it doesn’t take a genius to design an offense around two very talented players, this seasons offense under Locksley shows his ability to adapt to a changing roster. This will be very important to someone taking over at Syracuse.
Why wouldn’t he be a good fit?: Despite the obvious strengths of recruiting and building an offense, Locksley does come with some negatives. The most obvious is his lack of head coaching experience. We went down this road with Greg Robinson and while it is no guarantee that Locksley’s results would be similar, the lack of experience leading a program is worrisome.
Locksley has also never coached in the Northeast, meaning he doesn’t have as many established recruting connections to the area. He has obvious ties to the Southeast and Midwest, and has been strong in the Washington D.C. area, but one key to this job will be the ability to land the recruits we used to get but now are going to UConn and Rutgers.
What are his chances?: 50-50. Locksley is one of the mentioned non-head coaches to be a candidate, but he is going to get interviews and most likely offers elsewhere. Daryl Gross would have to weigh the lack of head-coaching experience against the recruiting prowess and decide if Locksley’s talent on the recruiting trail will translate to the Northeast. I personally don’t see him getting the job over a coach with previous head-coaching experience and northeast ties, or even an assistant with Syracuse ties (namely Dan Mullen and Steve Addazio).