STEVENS: Coach Locksley Is Beaming About His Future Family of Lobos
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  02/02/2010
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

Feb. 2, 2010

Lobo Football Signing Day
Update Blog:
Up-to-the minute official announcements on Wednesday's recruits on GoLobos.com.
Highlight video: Player highlights and Wednesday's signing-day press conference on GoLobos.com.
Lobo Talk: 7-8 p.m., Thursday, fan reception/Lobo Talk (770-AM) at Kelly's Brew Pub

By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

It`s the time of the year when college football coaches are as happy and as nervous as expecting fathers, but with a little more control, and a little less control.

You can`t always pick your family, but you can pick the talent to which you offer full-ride scholarships. Of course, you don't always have the guarantee that they'll accept your offer and you can't even guarantee that they'll stick around for four years or so. Your birth kids usually hang around.

Lobo coach Mike Locksley is giving out the expecting-father vibes this week as he shuffles papers, uses a laser pointer to trace a player's movement on a TV screen, or simply talks about his soon-to-be expanded family of Lobos.

The second-year Lobo coach will officially open his arms to around 20 future Lobos on Wednesday -- National Letter of Intent Day. It's "D" day for Locksley and every NCAA college football coach: "Do" they or "Don't" they sign those papers that are dangling in front on their noses.

The best way to track Locksley's future Lobos is to lock into the live signing-day blog on GoLobos.com. When the papers are signed, GoLobos.com will let you know with breakdowns on each player and quotes on each Lobo from coach Locksley.

The GoLobos.com site also will have highlights on each player and after Wednesday's 3:30 p.m. press conference, there will be a video of the entire press conference. Lobo fans also are invited to attend a special signing-day Lobo Talk/fan reception from 7-8 p.m. Thursday at Kelly's Brew Pub in Nob Hill. Admission is free. The talk show runs on 770-AM KKOB and the Lobo Radio Network.

So, is coach Locks excited about his crop of 2010 Lobos? You bet. The New Mexico coach has lived up to his reputation as one of the nation's top college recruiters and has beaten out some of the top programs in the nation for some of the nation's top prospects.

He also is expecting to bring in a few transfers from some big-time schools to add instant help for the 2010 season.

Locks is bringing in Lobos who will instantly increase the speed and athleticism on this young UNM program. There are a lot of things Locksley and his talented staff look for in future Lobos -- academics, character, competitiveness, a huge splash of toughness -- but there are two things that are a constant in the type of player Locksley looks for: speed and pure athleticism.

`Our main goal was to improve the athleticism of our team," said Locksley. "There were games last year where we got beat in athleticism. That was an area of concern across the board at every position. I have no doubts that we accomplished our goal in that area."

When you think of speed and athleticism, you usually think of running backs, wide receivers, defensive backs. Locksley also thinks of linemen. His system of blocking and attacking requires big guys who can move their feet and get to the football or get to the linebackers and defensive backs.

The depth on the UNM O-line was a problem in 2009. It got thinner with the loss of key seniors: Erik Cook, Joshua Taufalele and Ivan Hernandez. It was a priority in this recruiting class to beef up that line.

"We had to upgrade our athleticism and depth there, too," said Locksley. "We are bringing in tall, athletic guys, who can move their feet and are explosive. They are kids with the ability to get bigger and better."

The Lobos also took a hit in the defensive backfield losing seniors Frankie Baca, Frankie Solomon and Ian Clark. The Lobos should add a lot of talented depth in that area for 2010 and several of these young DBs could be immediate impact players for UNM.

UNM also loaded up on the D-line to bring in instant contributors as well as needed depth on a unit that was talented, but young and thin in 2009.

A key factor for Locksley and his staff in recruiting is the scholarship reduction penalty slapped onto the UNM football program -- violations from the Rocky Long era. It's a subject that Locksley discusses begrudgingly because he accepts the penalties as part of the hand that came with accepting the UNM job.

However, it is a hurtful blow. The NCAA allows a program to have a maximum of 85 players on scholarship. UNM can only have 80. The NCAA allows a program to offer 25 scholarships during a signing period. Locksley can hand out only 20.

That means UNM will lose 15 talented bodies over the course of the three-year sanction. That also means UNM can't take any chances with young athletes who might be borderline academically -- or even borderline athletically, but with great potential to grow, mature and improve.

You could almost feel Locksley's pain as he followed with his laser pointer a 6-foot-4, 240-pound defensive end shredding blockers and making tackles all over his high school field. The kid wants to be a Lobo. Locksley wants him to be a Lobo.

The problem? No scholarships available.

"With our scholarship situation, we have to make sure we meet our immediate needs first," said Locksley. "That was on the line and in the defensive backfield.

"There are five kids on our list who we really want and who could really help us, but we couldn't take them. We not only are losing good kids, but the scholarship limitation doesn't give us any room to make mistakes.

"We have to make sure we can bring in kids with good character and a strong belief in academics who we know are going to be around for a long time to help us as a football team."

That statement pulled Locksley's head back down to his list of would-be, should-be, probably will-be Lobos.

He smiled like a proud papa.

Editor's Note: Richard Stevens is a former Associate Sports Editor and sports columnist for The Albuquerque Tribune. You can reach him at rstevens50@comcast.net.