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What Does the Taulia Tagovailoa Signing Mean for Maryland Football?
In May, following a surprisingly (to some) good recruiting haul in February, Maryland football Coach Mike Locksley inked former 4 Star QB Taulia Tagovailoa from the transfer portal.
In normal circumstances this would have been cause for celebration but with Maryland coming off of a 3-9 season it should be viewed as spectacular.
The Terps started off 2-0 in 2019, but then collapsed. It’s totally fair to call 3-9 a disappointment but It was clear that Coach Locksley faced a huge rebuilding project on his hands taking over after an interim coach (Matt Canada) piloted the team in 2018 following the dismissal of D.J. Durkin.
What a lot of Maryland fans may not understand – especially if they are more oriented to watching professional sports – is that it takes time to turn a football program around, usually at least 2-3 really good recruiting classes. I remember watching Twitter during the Terps third game of the season, which they lost to Temple in frustrating fashion. “Same old Terps” and “I guess Locksley isn’t so great after all” were already the sentiments three games in by some.
It’s not the NFL where a great quarterback or a really organized and smart head coach can do one or two season turnarounds to Super Bowl contention – especially in the Big 10 East which is the toughest division in college football except for possible the SEC West right now.
The only real chance that Maryland has to be consistently competitive in the B1G East is for Locksley to be able to make big gains in recruiting elite talent in the “DMV”. The region, made up of D.C., Maryland and Virginia –is one that produces a ton of Division I talent.
As an assistant twice at Maryland sandwiched around a stop at Illinois and an ill-fated tenure as head coach at New Mexico (when he was clearly not ready to be a head coach) and then finishing at Alabama before coming back as head coach, Locksley routinely helped raid the area. His history recruiting the area probably mattered as much – if not more - as his success as offensive coordinator at Alabama in being brought back as Maryland’s head coach.
So what does this have to do with Taulia Tagovailoa? What’s his signing mean?
First, Taulia is NOT Tua. He may end up very good but, having watched him play in limited time at Alabama (and yes I watch basically every snap), I can say he does not have the same quick twitch, uncanny instincts and accuracy that his brother has. However, he is more mobile and is certainly an upgrade of Maryland’s quarterback room – the Terps have really struggled for several years due to bad injury luck and poor recruiting since the Edsall years. Also, Taulia does need a waiver to be able to play immediately – but that seems pretty likely considering the NCAA’s practice in that area recently.
Most importantly, this signing, along with the surge before signing day in February from the 53rd best class to the 27th best class in the country shows recruits in the DMV and elsewhere that College Park is a destination. One note about the class – it brought in a lot of depth for the offensive and defensive lines. In watching Maryland over the past few years – even as Durkin improved recruiting – it’s clear that the Terps were way behind in the trenches.
Now they have the chance to build real momentum in recruiting and hopefully field a team that can realistically think about getting to a bowl game – and the extra practices that come with it – in Year 2 of the Locksley Era.
For Maryland fans, patience is going to have to be a virtue but signees like Taulia may accelerate the progress.
One thing Maryland is missing is a true, competitive rivalry…Terp fans hate Penn State but that’s been pretty one-sided over the years. My next column will touch on the rivalries that define college football - and rank the ones you really have to watch if you’re wanting to understand and get more into the game.