ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) -From the Rock to the Lock.
With Mike Locksley freshly hired as New Mexico's football coach, replacing Rocky Long, the new guy will quickly get a chance to test his reputation as an accomplished recruiter.
``Recruiting is my background. I'm going to hang my hat on that to build this program,'' Locksley said.
Perhaps more than any other item on a list of coaching requirements publicized by athletics director Paul Krebs, recruiting is likely to define Locksley's success or failure with the Lobos.
Locksley welcomed the challenge Tuesday at his introductory news conference, outlining his recruiting philosophy and pledging to build on Long's success at identifying players from New Mexico high schools.
``Recruiting starts with taking care of your own backyard,'' said Locksley, the Illinois offensive coordinator the past four seasons. ``We're going to cut our grass here before we go into our neighbor's yard.''
yers like former Lobo Brian Urlacher, who grew up in Lovington, and former Michigan standout Alan Branch, from Rio Rancho, are the exception, not the rule.
Locksley didn't sound discouraged.
``After studying it, I know there's always a handful of guys who have the ability to play Division I football in this state,'' he said. ``It's going to be a challenge to keep those top players home.''
When Long announced he was stepping down last month, he said Mountain West rivals Utah, BYU and TCU have recruiting advantages that make it difficult for the league's other members to keep pace.
At Utah, it's two trips to the big-money Bowl Championship Series since 2004. For Mormon-owned BYU, there's a national pool of potential recruits who are church members. At TCU, it's a wealth of Texas high school talent.
When asked what component, more than any other, has moved Utah closer to the big time, coach Kyle Whittingham didn't hesitate.
``Recruiting. That's the No. 1 gig in college football,'' Whittingham said shortly after Long announced his departure. ``It's all about players. If you can recruit well, you can get it done.''
No worries, Locksley said.
During his years as an assistant at Illinois, Florida and Maryland, he learned recruiting is ``a people-driven business'' that requires more emphasis on personalities than on bricks-and-mortar projects like stadiums or locker rooms.
eople like you and trust you, they'll come,'' he said.
After doing his best to retain New Mexico's homegrown players, Locksley said it's off to the Lone Star State. He plans ``to treat Texas almost like a home state for us,'' and noted Texas has produced 364 major college recruits in the past two years.
M can only take 25 a year,'' Locksley said. ``That still leaves 200-something players for us.''
Of course, recruiting is just one of four areas Krebs cited last month when he set out to find the next coach.
He also wanted someone who runs an exciting offense to put fans in the seats, someone willing to be an enthusiastic salesman to promote the program in the community and someone with strong leadership skills for the locker room.
``I emphasized all these characteristics. Coach Locksley fits them,'' Krebs said.
It's difficult to forecast how Locksley's recruiting ties on the East coast and Midwest will play out in New Mexico. At Illinois, he started a pipeline for talent from the Washington, D.C., area.
Will a stream of standouts from Baltimore, Chicago or Florida trek to the Southwest to play for an aspiring mid-major program? The coach said wherever the prospect lives, he can make a good sell.
anybody from anywhere in the country and not apologize for what we have to offer,'' he said.

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