Knowing elite QB Taulia Tagovailoa is eligible softens blow of tough week for Maryland
If a grueling slate weren’t already enough, Maryland will be without 6 players who opted out of the 2020 season in response to COVID-19.
Maryland will have to fill the void left by starting quarterback Josh Jackson, and starting offensive linemen Johnny Jordan and Austin Fontaine. After going 3-9 in coach Mike Locksley’s first season, the Terps will compete in a 10-game, B1G only schedule, including matchups against last season’s top 3 West division teams (Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa). That’s in addition to the annual B1G East grind.
It was an up-and-down first season in College Park for Jackson (1,274 passing yards, 12 touchdowns, 6 interceptions, 112.4 QB rating), which included dealing with an ankle injury. Yet heading into this season, Jackson was healthy and primed for improvement, so the loss of the senior quarterback is particularly difficult.
However, this is the perfect opportunity for a diamond in the rough to emerge.
Alabama transfer Taulia Tagovailoa, the younger brother of Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, was granted a waiver and will be eligible for the 2020 season. The 5-11, 214-pound Tagovailoa has 3 years of eligibility at Maryland.
Taulia Tagovailoa’s transfer waiver has been approved by the NCAA and the former Alabama QB is immediately eligible to play at Maryland, per source. Attorney John Long handled family’s case over last three months, and Maryland coach Mike Locksley was notified of the news today.
— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) August 7, 2020
This is a major relief for Maryland and keeps them on track to make strides from last season’s 3-9 campaign. The only other eligible quarterback on the roster is redshirt freshman Lance LeGendre. LeGendre will vie for the job, but barring any major setbacks, it appears Tagovailoa is in the driver’s seat to earn the starting nod.
Tagovailoa was a reserve under his brother in his lone season at Alabama and has limited collegiate experience. Yet, Locksley explained when acquiring Tagovailoa what stands out about the former 4-star recruit, who passed for 3,726 yards and 35 touchdowns his senior season of high school.
“Taulia has outstanding field vision and excellent pocket awareness,” Locksley said in a statement obtained by ESPN. “He’s a twitchy passer that has the ability to make and extend plays in and outside of the pocket because of his above-average athleticism. Taulia has terrific touch and trajectory on his throws and delivers the ball with above-average accuracy. He’s a highly competitive player that will bring great competition to a good quarterback room.”
If that accuracy translates to the collegiate level, it would be a boon for Maryland’s passing offense. Last season, the Terps ranked 2nd-worst amongst Power 5 programs in Total QBR (32.9) last season per ESPN Stats & Information.
Tagovailoa will certainly have the opportunity to replicate his high school stats in large part because of his wideouts. Maryland boasts a dynamic group of receivers, including Dontay Demus (41 receptions, 625 yards, 6 touchdowns) and 5-star freshman Rakim Jarrett.
Tagovailoa’s father Galu expressed that his son selected Maryland because of his competitive spirit and desire to prove his worth. Alabama didn’t have plans for Tagovailoa, so he took matters into his own hands.
“He’s a player,” Galu said to AL.com. “This kid likes to play. He wants a chance to get on the field. He knew that him getting on the field this past season was just to hand off the ball and they didn’t really showcase him and who he is. He doesn’t fear competition. He just wants an opportunity to go out there and play. And the best place right now for him is Maryland.”
It would be unfair to draw comparisons to Tua Tagovailoa since the sample size on Taulia Tagovailoa is so small — and Tua was so spectacular. But the younger brother has the perfect chance to create his own legacy at Maryland. The expectations and pressure won’t be as high at Maryland compared to Alabama.
Had Tagovailoa stayed at Alabama, he would have remained in the shadow of his brother and likely 3rd on the depth chart behind Mac Jones and 5-star freshman Bryce Young. Instead, Tagovailoa gets a fresh start and craft his own narrative. Objective Maryland fans will evaluate Tagovailoa solely according to his own production and not juxtaposed with his NFL brother.
The COVID-19 revised schedule has its share of challenges. Maryland begins the season at Iowa, has back-to-back games against Wisconsin and Penn State, and closes with Ohio State, Michigan, and Minnesota.
It’ll definitely require a total team effort to increase last season’s win total. But after all of the opt-outs, this is a key break for Maryland. The addition of Tagovailoa provides Maryland fans with a much-needed boost of hope in the present and the chance for an anchor at quarterback the next 3 seasons.