Two weeks removed from Alabama quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa announcing his decision to transfer to Maryland, the quarterback room added much-need depth as the staff helped fill a critical void this offseason. While there was speculation that the younger brother of new Miami Dolphin quarterback Tua Tagovailoa could head to Florida with the family, head coach Mike Locksley knew that his relationship with the family from his three seasons at Alabama kept the Terps squarely in the mix.
“Because of the relationship, we knew we would have a chance and we had been in dialogue with him. Obviously, we weren’t necessarily aware of when he would be making a decision or where he would be going, but we really felt like we had a great opportunity with our quarterback situation, having two quarterbacks on scholarship,” Locksley told Glenn Clark Radio this week in an interview. “And then with the familiarity of some of the things we did with Tua, where I served as the coordinator on offense in the system, I thought there was some natural fit there and it worked out in our favor and we’re really excited about it.”
The offense that Locksley and offensive coordinator Scottie Montgomery implemented at Maryland mimics Alabama’s offensive playbook as Locksley last year noted the two offenses “will be similar.” That familiarity gives Tagovailoa a chance to step into a seamless transition when he arrives on campus this summer, but the question of when he’ll suit up in College Park looms large. After the NCAA nixed the idea of a one-time transfer rule for the 2020 season, head coach Mike Locksley knows the possibility of heading into fall with just two scholarship quarterbacks looms large.
“I won’t speculate. We signed him with the thought process that he would have to sit a year,” Locksley added. “We were hoping that the one-time transfer rule would maybe go into effect as we pursued any and all quarterbacks and position groups that we need, but when we signed him and he committed, we took him with the mindset that he would not be available. But obviously the NCAA has a waiver process that we will pursue and see if there's a way to gain immediate eligibility for him.”
Regardless of when he suits up, the skillset that he showed both in high school and as a true freshman last season earned him high praise from his new head coach.
“If you put the tape on, here's a kid that threw for over 14,000 yards as a high school player and in two different states. He did it in Hawaii and then did it in a really competitive division of football there in Alabama playing at the highest level there. I think that speaks volumes because if you look at the company there that he's in and throwing for that amount of yardage in a career at the high school level shows he has an acumen and a skill set in the passing game.”
“He's a guy that when plays break down and when things kind of change on him, he has the ability to get himself out of trouble with his athleticism but still make those throws on the run and different off-platform type of throws. Really competitive spirit, he’s a guy that makes the players around him better and that’s something I saw having recruited him out of high school and the level he took that program to at Thompson High School and then, even at Alabama and the fact that he played in five games as a true freshman.”
While the quarterback play was been a question mark for Maryland in recent years, Locksley dismissed the notion that the final piece to the puzzle has been found. “I don’t know if we can say that it’s one piece is the significance of what we want to get done, I think it’s the collection of the pieces,” he added.
“Obviously without [Tagovailoa] having immediately eligibility, we’re still working through some of those things. It helps us as we continue to build this thing. We have a plan in place of how we want to put it together and we’ve been able to recruit at a high level in last year’s class, landing guys like Rakim Jarrett, “Dede” McDougle, Ruben Hyppolite and then guys we can’t discuss that haven’t signed yet, but we feel like we’re off to a really good start and really taking care of the needs our program has to put it on a strong foundation.”
That foundation has rejuvenated the Maryland program this offseason, beginning with the late flip of 2020 wide receiver Rakim Jarrett as the Terps took that momentum right into the 2021 cycle. With all but two commits hailing within the DMV, the transparency that the staff has shown on the trail has restored belief in their plan.
“I do think, by me sharing some of the processes that I’ve been through as a coach, when given enough time our ability as a program to recruit players that help you win because this is a player-driven deal. As much as we like to think we’re gurus as coaches, it’s all about getting guys in here that have the ability to play, get them to play with great discipline and playing to a standard on a daily basis and that’s the piece that I feel pretty confident, that we’ve been able to give a clear and concise vision for how we’re going to get this program there. People see it and it’s very believable because it’s happened before, it’s happened most of the places I’ve been when I’ve given enough time to recruit and bring in the right kind of kids and help be a part of setting the culture, whether an assistant role or coordinator role.”
“There’s no doubt that it’s not a matter of if, but when here at Maryland for us.”