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Florida to hire Mike Locksley as assistant coach, per report

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The man they call Locks would certainly fit Florida’s need for a superb recruiter.

Maryland v Iowa Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images

Florida will upgrade its coaching staff by hiring Alabama football analyst Mike Locksley, according to Football Scoop.

Sources tells FootballScoop, Mike Locksley has agreed to join the Florida staff after Alabama’s playoff run. Prior to serving this season as an analyst at Alabama, Locks spent the past four seasons at Maryland as offensive coordinator.

Locksley — Locks, to some — has long been renowned as one of the best recruiters in all of college football, especially of the talent-rich Maryland-D.C.-Virginia area known as the “DMV,” and was an integral part of Ron Zook’s recruiting success in his first tour with the Gators early last decade. He also followed Zook to Illinois, where his recruiting successes — notably Juice Williams and Arrelious Benn — helped the Illini make the Rose Bowl in 2008.

While Locksley flamed out as New Mexico’s head coach — going 2-26 before being relieved of his duties in 2011, reportedly punching an assistant coach, and being named as the subject of a discrimination complaint that was later resolved in his favor — he remained a coveted assistant thereafter, and the Washington, D.C. native mined the area for talent as Maryland’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach from 2012 to 2015, landing future NFL star Stefon Diggs and five-star tackle Damian Prince. Locksley became Maryland’s interim head coach after the firing of Randy Edsall last year, and went 1-5 in that role, making his unlikely candidacy to succeed Edsall a pipe dream.

Locksley’s 2016 was spent as a poorly-compensated offensive analyst for Alabama, after Nick Saban hired him in a move that was hailed as a coup, despite Locksley’s coaching acumen rating well below his recruiting chops and an analyst role substantially limiting Locksley’s ability to recruit — in theory, anyway. With the departure of Lane Kiffin and elevation of fellow analyst Steve Sarkisian to offensive coordinator, though, Locksley’s path to an assistant coach position with the Crimson Tide was clearly blocked — which spawned swiftly-discredited rumors that he would follow Kiffin to Florida Atlantic.

Other, more substantiated rumors had held that Locksley was angling toward joining Florida’s staff — and that Florida should hire Locksley — after the departure of Geoff Collins for Temple opened up a full-time position. (Multiple reports on Friday described reporting that Locksley has decided on Florida as “premature,” but did not deny the mutual interest between coach and school.) Those whispers were kept mostly sotto voce, with Jim McElwain helping to quell speculation by indicating that any staff changes would not officially occur until after Florida’s participation in the Outback Bowl, and insisting as recently as earlier Friday afternoon that he was not expecting to make significant staff changes beyond hiring an eighth assistant to round out his staff.

Locksley could do that perfectly, most easily by sliding into the role of running backs coach that he held at Maryland and Florida from 1997 to 2004. That would displace Tim Skipper — but Skipper was a linebackers coach at Colorado State under McElwain, and made the switch back to running backs coach partly to help Florida accomodate bringing Collins and Randy Shannon in to serve as co-defensive coordinators. (The first bullet point of Skipper’s official Florida bio? “A versatile teacher, Skipper has coached on both sides of the ball and has served for all or parts of four seasons as a defensive coordinator.”)

Shannon, who is serving as Florida’s interim defensive coordinator in the Outback Bowl, seems likely to earn the removal of that interim tag. His elevation to fully-fledged DC would likely necessitate Florida finding a full-time linebackers coach — especially because Shannon has shifted to working with Florida’s safeties during bowl practices, with defensive quality control assistant Mark DeBastiani serving as an interim linebackers coach. Looking no further than Skipper, who has been a fine recruiter and developer of talent as running backs coach, seems like the most sensible move by far.

Locksley could also take the title of recruiting coordinator from Shannon, though that title is probably at least mostly ceremonial.

Florida waiting until after the Outback Bowl to confirm Locksley’s hiring and any other staff changes seems likely, and would be in keeping with the Gators announcing six hirings in one fell swoop in 2015.