Officially, five scholarship Texas Longhorns quarterbacks are currently in contention for the starting job this fall. In reality, redshirt freshman Kai Locksley is facing more questions about his ultimate position in Austin than he is questions about his ability to win the competition initiated with the December arrival of new offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert.
On Tuesday, Gilbert acknowledged the possibility that Locksley's future at Texas could be a wide receiver.
"Maybe," he said. "Right now, it's probably too early to say."
Too early, to be sure. However, it's not too early to note that prior to sophomore Jerrod Heard's shoulder injury on Tuesday, Locksley was running with the second group of quarterbacks in practice, well behind the main group of Heard, senior Tyrone Swoopes, and early enrollee Shane Buechele.
For most players, getting passed on the depth chart by someone younger is a bad sign that ultimately results in a position change or transfer. And there have also been some reports that Locksley has been frustrated with his lack of reps during the team portions of practice, so he may have already done some damage to his relationship with new offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert.
In many ways, this discussion feels like an inevitability. Locksley arrived at Texas last summer as the lone take at the quarterback position following the miss on Kyler Murray and the decommitment of Zach Gentry, who is moving to tight end at Michigan, but still faced questions about his future position. In fact, three of the four recruiting services classified him as an athlete after he played wide receiver at the 2015 Under Armour All-American game, with Scout holding the only dissenting opinion.
From a wide-angle perspective, it's a little bit odd that the quarterback son of a longtime offensive coordinator is so raw as a passer, but a deeper look provides the necessary background -- Locksley played wide receiver as a sophomore and then operated a run-heavy offense at the Gilman School in Baltimore during his last two seasons, providing him few opportunities as a passer. As a junior, he threw for only 875 yards and then failed to top the 1,000-yard mark as a senior, finishing with 950.
Locksley also missed a lot of reps by focusing on other sports during the offseason, much as Swoopes did at Whitewright. On the basketball court, the 6'4, 188-pounder led Gilman in scoring at 15 points per game as a junior and also competed in the 200m, the long jump, and the triple jump for his school.
For a player who has been a QB exclusively he possesses very good, soft hands. Has big hands. Has very good hand-eye coordination and focus. Snatches the ball out of the air in awkward positions. Is a natural hand plucker away from his frame, but will cradle some catches at times. Has shown quick feet and good body control to provide definition at the break point and to get his feet down on the sideline and end line. Is very good on contested match-ups one-on-one downfield.
The belief is that Locksley has the ability to play quarterback in college, assuming that he gets good coaching, is receptive to it, works hard, and has enough time to make up all those reps he missed out on. Basically, he's at least a three-year project before he's ready to see the field.
If Heard misses an extended period of time with his shoulder injury, the staff may have more impetus to keep Locksley at quarterback for depth purposes, but it's also the case that with his enormous potential as a wide receiver, does it make sense to waste another year or two of eligibility with him in hopes that he grows enough as a quarterback to be a viable option against higher-floor prospects like Buechele and 2017 quarterback commit Sam Ehlinger?
At some point there will be a reckoning in that decision and while it may not happen at the end of the spring, if Locksley could contribute immediately at wide receiver, does it make sense to wait and hope for that development to happen?