Locklyn a ‘slam dunk’ hire for Day, Ohio State


Tony Alford’s abrupt departure from Ohio State to archrival Michigan last month left a void in Ryan Day’s coaching staff at an awkward time as the Buckeyes were just beginning to get into the flow of spring practice. Day moved quickly, though, and found a replacement in Carlos Locklyn that he believes will turn out to be a “home run” for the program.

Speaking with the media on Wednesday, Day was quickly asked about the hire and why he felt Locklyn was the right man to lead Ohio State’s running backs room moving forward.

“First off, when you hear about Carlos’ story, it’s captivating,” Day said. “And then you start to listen to the overall knowledge of the position, his aggressiveness in recruiting, the impact he’s had on people, the relationships he has with people. It was an absolute slam dunk for us. He’s already, in a short period of time, brought in an edge and a toughness, an aggressiveness that I think is going to be excellent.”

As referenced by Day, Locklyn’s path to Columbus has been anything but conventional. After his playing career ended, coaching was not the natural progression for Locklyn. Instead, he got into law enforcement as a corrections officer and showed no interest in the idea of coaching. But after serving stints as offensive coordinator at four high schools in the Memphis, Tennessee area, Locklyn’s coaching career began to take shape.

Locklyn entered the college coaching ranks as a weight room coach at Memphis in 2017 under then-head coach Mike Norvell before eventually becoming an offensive analyst the following year. He followed Norvell to Florida State in 2020 before being hired as the running backs coach at Western Kentucky ahead of the 2021 season.

His time at Western Kentucky was short-lived as he was hired in the same capacity at Oregon in 2022, and he went on to help build one of the best rushing attacks in college football over the past two years in Eugene.

Now, he finds himself in Columbus at the helm of arguably the best running back rooms in the country, something he isn’t taking for granted.

“I’m pretty excited,” Locklyn said on Wednesday in his first meeting with the Ohio State media. “This has been a journey. I’m sure most people have read about my story since 2017 getting into college football. I have to pinch myself every morning that I’m here in Columbus at Ohio State. It’s kind of surreal for me. It’s a great place with great people and great young men, so I’m excited just by being here.”

As he continues to settle into his new home at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, Locklyn has the enviable luxury of having two proven stars at the top of his depth chart in TreVeyon Henderson and Quinshon Judkins and several quality depth pieces led by freshmen James Peoples and Sam Williams-Dixon. While any new job comes with an onboarding process, connecting early with his players won’t be an issue for Locklyn, which was an element that factored heavily in Day’s decision to extend the offer.

“They all knew exactly who he was and built relationships with him through the recruiting process, so when they heard he was one of the finalists, it was immediate,” Day said of the players’ reactions. “You could see it in their eyes that they were excited about it. That might have been one of the things that put me over the top.”

As for how prepared he is to juggle the dynamic of having a pair of elite backs expecting to get a bulk of the carries, Locklyn expressed full confidence Ohio State will be just fine in that regard.

“This ain’t my first rodeo,” Locklyn said when asked about the talent-rich running backs room. “I know a lot of people look and say, ‘This guy has only been on the field (coaching) for three years at Western Kentucky and Oregon.’ Just because I didn’t have the title of running backs coach at Memphis, I never carried myself that way. I always carried myself as a running backs coach, and I approached every day that way.

“So at Memphis, we had (current NFL players) Darrell Henderson, Patrick Taylor, Tony Pollard, Kenny Gainwell, and Antonio Gibson. I’ve seen talented backs and I’ve seen them be able to function with one another. So I hear that all the time about how it’s going to work. This ain’t my first rodeo. It’s the same thing I did at Oregon with Bucky Irving, Noah Whittington, and Jordan James. Go look at their numbers. They all functioned well together because we learned how to play as one. Plus I know (Henderson and Judkins) because I recruited them in high school. So I’m up for the challenge and the responsibility of it.”

Asked to describe his approach, Locklyn first noted his coaching foundation isn’t rooted in stats or accomplishments on the field but rather who his players are as people.

“I get the best out of them because I love the young men,” he said. “My main focus is to change their hearts and minds and they’ll play for me. I just got done reading Coach (Jim) Tressel’s ‘The Winner’s Manual,’ and there’s something that I took from that book. You have your purpose and then your goals. My purpose is to serve and pour into the young men. My goals as a football coach, all of them will take care of themselves.”

Speaking about the play on the field, Locklyn added that he’s very “detailed” in his approach to teaching running backs, a position he called the worst coached in football.

“It’s terrible. Guys hire anybody to coach this position because they’re recruiters,” he said. “Carlos Locklyn is not a recruiter. I’m an elite relationship builder, but I also coach this position. I’m a ball coach. That’s who I am. I going to pour into these kids, and I think they’re kind of seeing it now. I jumped in day one and am ready to coach.”

Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.

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