After the UTEP football team endured the worst season in program history, the Miners cleaned the house and brought in an entirely new staff. Head coach Dana Dimel was looking to make a splash in advance of the Feb. 7 National Signing Day, and it appears that he has done just that. Heralded junior college quarterback Kai Locksley announced that he had signed with UTEP and he will play his remaining two years of eligibility for the Miners.
The Locksley news is significant for a number of reasons. UTEP’s new offense, which will be run by Dimel and new offensive coordinator Mike Canales, is most effective with a dual threat quarterback. Locksley fits the bill, since he scored a total of 40 touchdowns last season (20 passing and 20 rushing) for Iowa Western. As a result of his great performance, Locksley was named the National Junior College Athletic Association’s Offensive Player of the Year. He visited UTEP this past weekend, but he also had an offer from NMSU as well as interest from Power 5 schools Kentucky, Ole Miss, Indiana and Pittsburgh.
Locksley has had an incredible journey prior to arriving in El Paso. He was a nationally heralded four-star recruit out of high school, who had committed to Florida State. However, quarterback Deondre Francois had also committed to FSU the same day as Locksley, so the son of the former New Mexico head coach decided to switch his commitment to Texas on Signing Day in 2015. After being redshirted by Texas, the Longhorns converted Locksley to wide receiver. The switch did not go well and he quit UT in midseason. Locksley transferred to Arizona Western College and helped lead them to the 2016 national junior college championship game. The plan was for him to transfer to Marshall and sit out the 2017 season. However, a month later he changed his mind and switched to Iowa College so he could play immediately instead of sitting out a season. Locksley had a terrific 2017 season, and he threw for 2,238 yards and 20 touchdowns, while rushing for another 705 yards and 20 touchdowns. His team finished 11-1 last season and Locksley became the most sought after dual threat quarterback in junior college football. Unlike many of the teams pursuing him, UTEP can offer Locksley an immediate opportunity to start and run their new offense.
With Locksley committed to the Miners, Coach Dimel has an impact signal caller who can impact his team on and off the field. They also have quarterbacks Ryan Metz and Mark Torrez on their 2018 roster. Former signal caller Kavika Johnson was converted to wide receiver last season, but he could also play QB since his style fits the type of offense that Coach Dimel prefers to utilize. UTEP has already received verbal commitments from defensive tackle Savien Jenkins (Schertz, TX 5’11” 257) and linebacker Hassan Belton (Blythewood, SC 6’0” 215). National Signing Day is Wednesday, Feb. 7.
Since 1997, Steve Kaplowitz has hosted “Sportstalk” weekday afternoons 4-7 p.m. on 600 ESPN El Paso. Over the last 17 years, he has also worked for UTEP and NMSU as a play-by-play broadcaster, for UTEP telecasts on Time Warner Cable and for KDBC-TV and KTSM-TV as a sports anchor/reporter. You can contact Steve by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org.