The speculation began almost as soon as Maryland hired Mike Locksley as its next head coach.
Locksley locked down four commits from the DMV area (District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia) as Alabama’s offensive coordinator this recruiting cycle, leading some to expect him to try to bring at least one of them with him to Maryland. He was the primary recruiter of four DMV Alabama commits: linebacker Shane Lee and offensive lineman Darrian Dalcourt from St. Frances Academy in Baltimore, running back Keilan Robinson from St. John’s College in Washington, D.C. and safety DeMarcco Hellams from Dematha.
But Locksley didn’t try to sell any on the benefits of staying local and playing for the home school. Landing any of the four four-star recruits would have been a huge boon for Maryland but Locksley decided the right thing to do was leave them alone. While Georgia head coach Kirby Smart ruffled feathers on the way out of Tuscaloosa when he went after Crimson Tide commits in 2015, Locksley reiterated what he said throughout the recruiting process: Alabama is the best school for you.
“To me from an ethical standpoint, I’ve recruited some of these guys and if I didn’t have a chance to recruit them for Maryland…it’s kind of hard to go from telling a kid Alabama is the best thing to hey, now Maryland is the best thing,” Locksley said. “I thought it was the right thing to do.”
It didn’t stop with just the DMV area recruits who have natural geographic ties to his new job. In the middle of trying to build a coaching staff and quickly put together a new recruiting class at Maryland, Locksley was still recruiting for Alabama. He was the primary recruiter of five-star recruits Trey Sanders and Evan Neal from IMG Academy, and helped Nick Saban and Co. close the deal with both at the start of the early signing period. That meant picking up the phone and reassuring recruits that even though he was leaving Alabama, it was still the right place for them to be.
“Some of the guys that were signed at Alabama I was the lead recruiter on and I think maybe the credibility of me saying I don’t have a dog in the fight now, I’m going to Maryland but I’m telling you Alabama is still the best situation for you,” Locksley said. “Look what Alabama did for me as a coach so imagine what it could do for you as a player.”
Locksley’s time at Alabama is coming to a close. After next Monday’s national championship in Santa Clara, Calif., all of Locksley’s attention will be on trying to rebuild a scandal-scarred Maryland football program. It’ll inevitably mean competing against Alabama on the recruiting trail especially in the DMV which has been particularly fruitful for the Crimson Tide during the Saban era. Former stars like Jonathan Allen, the Kouandjio brothers, Cyrus Jones and Da’Shawn Hand all originated from that part of the country. The 2020 recruiting class is supposed to be particularly good in the DMV.
But first, Locksley wants to help Saban win another national championship. The recruiting battles will begin soon enough but he made a purposeful decision to honor his word and not burn any bridges in Tuscaloosa after Alabama football helped revitalize his career.
“I had a commitment obviously when I recruited for Alabama to recruit for Alabama,” he said. “Once we are done playing here, I’m going to do what’s best for Maryland.”