Maryland football: The 10 most valuable players from the past decade
Since 2012, Maryland football has been on a wild ride as the Terrapins made a transition to the B1G. The start of play in the conference began innocently enough for the program but quickly turned south with a 3-win campaign in 2015.
Then, from 2017-20, the Terps failed to qualify for a bowl game and dealt with the DJ Durkin catastrophe and fallout. Add in a season with Matt Canada as the interim coach before Mike Locksley took the reins heading into 2019.
It has not all been easy under Locksley, but with some key new faces, Maryland qualified for a bowl and registered a big win during the 2021 postseason. As the program looks to build on the success of last season, let’s take a look back at the past 10 years of Maryland football.
Here are the 10 most valuable Maryland players from the past decade:
QB Taulia Tagovailoa (2020-)
After years of riding the quarterback carousel, Maryland found stability in Taulia Tagovailoa, who was the first Maryland quarterback to start in every game since 2014. Before Tagovailoa got to College Park as a transfer from Alabama, the program rode a never-ending quarterback carousel.
But last year, even before a huge Pinstripe Bowl performance where Maryland won 54-10, Tagovailoa had one of the best statistical seasons for a quarterback in program history.
Counting the bowl victory over Virginia Tech (in which he went 20-of-24 for 265 yards and 2 TDs), Tagovailoa set program single-season records in passing yards (3,860), completions (328), completion percentage (69.2%), passing touchdowns (26) and 300-yard passing games (7). He was ranked top-25 in the FBS and top 3 in Big Ten in every passing category. His completion percentage ranked eighth in the FBS, and he also stood top-10 in nation in passing yards and completions per game (25.23).
DL Yannick Ngakoue (2013-15)
One of the best, if not the best pass rusher in Maryland history, Ngakoue was a First Team All-Big Ten choice in 2015 by coaches and media. He made 11 starts that season and set Maryland’s single-season sack record with 15, breaking the mark set by Mark Duda in 1982 and Bruce Palmer in 1978. He also ranked 5th in the B1G that year with 1.3 TFL per game. Ngakoue is tied for 4th in Maryland history in sacks (21.5), ranks 8th in tackles for loss (33.0) and is 6th in TFL yards (176).
DB William Likely (2013-16)
Likely had a decorated career as a return specialist and defensive back, and was the only player to start on both sides of the ball in 2015 and 2016. He was named as one of the top 6 most versatile players in college football by NFL.com, was one of the best punt returners in the country in 2015, winning the Big Ten’s Rodgers-Dwight Return Specialist of the Year award that season. Likely was an All-Big Ten selection by the coaches and media in both 2014 and 2015.
He’s 2nd all-time at Maryland in career kickoff return yards, and 3rd all-time in punt return yards. His Maryland records include single-season interception return yards (170, 2014), single-season interceptions returned for TDs (2, 2014) and single-game kickoff return yards (228 yards vs. Michigan State, 2014). His 233 punt return yards against Richmond in 2015 broke a 76-year-old Big Ten single-game record.
RB Anthony McFarland Jr. (2017-19)
Arguably the best running back of this era of Maryland football, McFarland was the quickest Terp to 11 rushing touchdowns since 2010, and the first Maryland player to have 7 in his first 6 games since Keon Lattimore in 2007. McFarland finished his career 3rd in Maryland history at 6.7 yards per carry, 9th with 6 100-yard games and 21st with 1,648 rushing yards.
Specialist Javon Leake (2017-19)
A dynamic and versatile player, Leake in 2019 won the Rodgers-Dwight Big Ten Return Specialist of the Year award, was first team All-Big Ten as a return specialist and gained honorable mention All-Big Ten at running back. Leake is tied for most kickoff return touchdowns in program history (3) and ranks 5th all-time in kick return yards (1,487).
In 2019, Leake was third in FBS and led the Big Ten with 804 kick return yards (tying the school record), including a pair of touchdowns. That year, he ranked 3rd nationally and led Big Ten with 67.0 kick return yards per game.
QB CJ Brown (2009-14)
The career arc for CJ Brown works out incredibly well for this piece. After struggling in limited action from 2010-11, Brown missed the 2012 season due to an ACL injury. He returned in 2013-14 and posted 2 of the best seasons Maryland has seen in terms of total offense.
Brown posted 2,800+ total yards of offense in back-to-back years and is currently 1 of 2 Terrapins all-time with multiple years of 2,600+ total yards of offense. (Scott McBrien, 2002-03, is the other.) Brown finished his career 2nd on Maryland’s all-time list for total offense (7,073 yards) and holds the program record for total touchdowns with 58.
On the field, Maryland posted back-to-back 7-6 seasons with Brown under center from 2013-14. Unfortunately, the Terps were unable to win a bowl game over that stretch. Brown did lead Maryland to road wins over Penn State and Michigan during the first-ever B1G season for the Terrapins.
WR Stefon Diggs (2012-14)
Stefon Diggs rightly holds a unique place in Maryland’s all-time lore. He was a monster for the Terps during his career before catapulting into an All-Pro receiver in the NFL. And Diggs was fantastic out of the gate as a freshman.
During the 2012 season, Diggs recorded 54 catches for 848 yards and 6 touchdowns. Diggs was on his way to another fantastic year as a sophomore when a season-ending injury cut his 2013 short. Diggs bounced back in incredible fashion as a junior with 62 catches for 792 yards and 5 touchdowns.
The 62 catches is still tied for 7th-most in a single season in program history. He also ranks 4th in program history for catches (150), 2nd in receiving yards (2,227) and 5th in receiving touchdowns (14).
WR DJ Moore (2015-17)
DJ Moore’s freshman season at Maryland was not as explosive as Diggs’, but Moore’s full career was no less impressive or important. As a sophomore, Moore averaged 15.5 yards per catch with 6 touchdowns before completely exploding as a junior.
During the 2017 season, Moore set a single-season program record of 80 receptions, for 1,033 yards with 8 touchdowns. That yardage total still ranks 3rd for a single season for the Terrapins, and Moore also put together 1 of the 7 200-yard receiving games in Maryland’s history.
On Maryland’s all-time lists, Moore ranks 5th in catches (146), 6th in receiving yardage (2,027) and 4th in receiving touchdowns (17). With his career body of work and remarkable 2017 season, Moore is deserving of a spot on this list.
WR Rakim Jarrett (2020-)
The 3rd and final receiver on this list, Rakim Jarrett’s story is far from finished with the Terrapins. Nevertheless, his importance to the program — and Mike Locksley’s time in College Park — is hard to overlook. A 5-star prospect and the top player out of Washington, D.C., for the class of 2020, Jarrett decommitted from LSU and spurned a host of SEC offers to come to Maryland and suit up for the Terps.
During the 2021 season, Jarrett produced 62 catches for 829 yards and 5 touchdowns. Those 62 catches are tied with Stefon Diggs for 7th-most in a single season. The 829 yards also rank 9th for a single season for the Terps.
Working with Taulia Tagovailoa, Jarrett has a chance to put up another special season in 2022. He also has a great shot to climb up some of Maryland’s all-time lists.
DL Andre Monroe (2011-14)
Andre Monroe holds the distinction of being among the group of Terrapins that spanned Maryland’s transition from the ACC to the B1G. Along the way, Monroe put up some strong pass-rushing numbers.
During Maryland’s first season in the B1G, Monroe posted 10.5 sacks and 14 TFL, a sack total that still ranks 9th for a season at Maryland. Monroe finished his career with 25 sacks, the program record for the Terrapins. He also finished with 120 tackles, 37.5 TFL and 2 forced fumbles.
Monroe’s best game came in 2013 when he had 3.5 TFL and 3 sacks in an overtime win against Virginia Tech. He also posted a multi-sack outing in a loss to Ohio State during the 2014 season.