Picks to Pop: UTEP's Kai Locksley

UTEP found a bird's nest on the ground when Kai Locksley fell into their laps. Whether teams were frightened away by Locksley's round-a-bout journey to Iowa Western or whether they bought into the narrative that he should've been a receiver, something Texas' coaching staff asked him to do or whether schools thought he was a prima donna, we believe those that passed on him will regret that decision. 

Their loss is UTEP's gain. 

Rarely do the recruiting services miss badly, even rarer still do the Urban Meyer's, Dabo Sweeny's, and Nick Saban's of the world. Coming out of high school 24/7 rated Locksley a four-star prospect and the 23rd ranked athlete in the country, ESPN named him a Top 300 recruit. The real endorsement came when Meyer, Sweeney, Saban, Jimbo Fisher, Bobby Petrino, and Gus Malzahn all offered Locksley the keys to their respective offensive machines. Locksley chose Texas and Charlie Strong. At Texas, Strong never settled on an offensive philosophy, changing radically over the course of his doomed Longhorn tenure. The tumult caught Locksley in its wake, and Strong asked the young athlete to move to receiver. 

Did Locksley make mistakes? Absolutely, he's admitted as much. He was vocal about his lack of playing time and perhaps those statements and his lack of maturity scared teams away on the second inspection. Before the end of the 2016 season, Locksley made known his intention to transfer and what came next was a bizarre trip that took him across the country. In January of 2017 Locksley moved to Arizona Western JC in May, before he'd played a game, an offer from Marshall made his stay in Yuma a short one. At Marshall Locksely, again, barely unpacked before deciding against sitting out a year to satisfy the NCAA's FBS transfer rules and move on to Iowa Western Junior College. That's three colleges in roughly six months. That's the wrong kind of mobility for a quarterback, and those moves scared teams off. 

Photo Credit: Ruben R. Ramirez/El Paso Times

Photo Credit: Ruben R. Ramirez/El Paso Times

What you cannot avoid in analyzing Locksley are the measurables and production. You cannot coach a quarterback to have his ideal size, you have it, or you don't. You cannot put a player in the weight room and develop the natural athletic traits that Locksley possesses. All he's done, when he plays quarterback, is produce. As a prep player Locksley played in a modified wing T and rushed for more yards than he passed for. His arm talent was clear, he threw with an effortless motion and the ball exploded out of his hand. In one year at Iowa Western, he accounted for 40 touchdowns and routinely torched some of the best Junior College programs in America, all while splitting time for half the season. More importantly, in a spread system his passing yards tripled his rushing production and he completed 66% of his passes. Iowa Western finished 11-1 in his one year under center. 

Locksley is the most physically gifted quarterback at UTEP since Jameill Showers. Shower possesses such physical that he's transitioned from quarterback to safety in the NFL. Locksley's physical tools could guide him into the league as well, but don't get duped like Charlie Strong, he's a quarterback and a good one. 

On Friday night those skills were on display for Miner fans to see. The results were predictable, Locksley's good, with more time in the system he can be terrific. He finished the spring game 11 of 17 for 119 yards. He was wearing a walking boot 24 hours before the scrimmage. Is Locksley enough to push UTEP into contention in CUSA West? He's not a miracle worker, but his presence in the lineup makes the Miners much more potent and competitive. After going 0-12, UTEP should have a decided talent upgrade at quarterback. 

UTEP opens the season on September first against Northern Arizona. 

The Roundup...

Posted on April 15, 2018 and filed under UTEP, Southwest Round-Up.