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Mike Locksley denies being offered Florida offensive coordinator position

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The sought-after quality control coach isn’t confirming a return to the Gators just yet.

Maryland v Rutgers Photo by G Fiume/Maryland Terrapins/Getty Images

It was reported on Friday that Alabama football analyst Mike Locksley would return to the on-field coaching ranks with Florida in 2017. On Saturday, in the wake of Alabama’s Peach Bowl triumph over Washington, Locksley spoke for the first time since those reports — and clarified them, sort of.

It’s worth noting, as well, that AL.com reporter Matt Zenitz and Fox Sports reporter Bruce Feldman both tweeted on Friday — in remarkably similar tweets — that they were told that reports of Locksley agreeing to join the Gators were “premature.”

To be clear, I don’t think Feldman plagiarized Zenitz, or anything like that — but I do think it’s entirely possible that the same or very closely related sources told Zenitz and Feldman the same thing.

And I also think that reading between the lines, triangulating recent reporting with quieter reporting from Florida beat writers — who have discussed the possibility of Locksley rejoining the Gators for days — and thinking about things from Locksley’s perspective are all worth doing.

The practical value of Zenitz and Feldman reporting that Locksley has not yet agreed to a position with Florida is the “not yet” — which is, notably, far from a denial. What Locksley’s quote to McMurphy says is that he hasn’t been offered Florida’s offensive coordinator position — which is currently held by Doug Nussmeier, who is unlikely to leave Florida, and which no one reported Locksley was offered, anyway — and is sticking with Alabama through the College Football Playoff, which was widely assumed.

A few Alabama assistants have stayed with the Crimson Tide through the Playoff before planned departures over the last two years, as well. Then-defensive coordinator Kirby Smart remained with the Tide in 2015 before leaving for Georgia, as did defensive backs coach Mel Tucker, who is now Smart’s defensive coordinator in Athens. Lane Kiffin is coaching Alabama’s offense in this Playoff — for better or worse — before departing for Florida Atlantic.

Locksley, though, is blocked at every step with Alabama, which will likely have a full offensive staff even after Kiffin’s departure. Kiffin — who quite possibly pitched Locksley on joining him in Boca Raton, given reporting earlier in December that suggested he was interested in bringing Locksley along, which was promptly batted down as inaccurate — has plucked just two Alabama secondary staffers for his FAU staff, assistant strength coach Wilson Love and offensive analyst Charlie Weis, Jr., and would seem unlikely to remove incoming offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, running backs coach Burton Burns, wide receivers coach Billy Napier, or offensive line coaches Mario Cristobal and Brent Key from Nick Saban’s staff.

Burns and Cristobal have associate and assistant head coach titles, respectively, and any of the other coaches from what looks like Alabama’s 2017 offensive staff would assuredly be taking a pay cut to join Kiffin — Kiffin himself is doing so, after all.

Locksley, meanwhile, is making $45,000 as an Alabama analystpeanuts in college coaching, though far more than most schools can offer off-field coaches — and would have the chance to make perhaps 10 times his salary if he comes to Florida, even if he does not take on the duties of offensive coordinator. No Florida coach is making under $285,000 in 2016, and Locksley’s experience might well command a salary near $500,000, in a band that would put him on par with Nussmeier, respected defensive line coach Chris Rumph, and veteran offensive line coach Mike Summers.

Florida’s staff might also be in for another round of small raises, with Geoff Collins leaving for Temple freeing up almost $900,000 for Florida’s salary pool even before any consideration of the staff leading the Gators to a second consecutive SEC Championship Game appearance.

Locksley likely does not have a signed contract with Florida at this moment; if he did, I can’t imagine he would be staying with Alabama for the next week, rather than joining Florida as soon as possible to help with the sprint to National Signing Day. He has quite possibly not been “offered” any job — offensive coordinator, running backs coach, recruiting coordinator, unspecified position — by the Gators, either, given how that word is used both expansively and narrowly in college football to convey both informal and formal overtures, and Jim McElwain’s cagey responses to questions about staff changes this offseason.

And it remains possible that Locksley won’t come to Florida after all, because nutty things happen all the time in this nutty industry.

Put that all together, and I think that it’s most likely that Locksley will, eventually, end up at Florida — or, perhaps, another school that can give him a significant raise, though Florida is clearly the favorite to hire him — even if it takes a little while for him to extricate himself from the Alabama machine.

And so long as that likelihood becomes a reality, it will be a significant win for Florida.