2023 Maryland football position overview: quarterbacks

Before Mike Locksley took over as head coach, finding consistency at quarterback was an Achilles’ heel for Maryland football over the last ten seasons with the injury bug routinely hitting the unit. Maryland looked to find its next guy when Josh Jackson arrived in College Park with Locksley in 2019, but after losing the job to Tyrrell Pigrome, the Terps rode the hot hand into the season-finale against Michigan State.

Then Taulia Tagovailoa arrived ahead of the 2020 season, giving Maryland a long-term answer at its biggest position of need.

Fast forward four years, and it’s Taulia Tagovailoa back in College Park for his fourth season where he’ll lean on the familiarity in the system to lead the Terrapins’ offense.

A COVID-shortened season gave Maryland fans a glimpse into what Taulia Tagovailoa was capable of as he threw for just over 1,000 yards and seven touchdowns, but the 2021 season reset the bar as he went on to set single-season records in passing yards (3,860), completions (328), completion percentage (69.2%), passing touchdowns (26) and 300-yard passing games (7). With three NFL-bound receivers leading the way last season, Tagovailoa threw for over 2,700 yards and 17 touchdowns as he began chipping away at the program’s career records.

2023 gives Tagovailoa a chance to cement himself among the greatest quarterbacks to suit up in College Park, and he’ll do so with an experienced, yet revamped room at his disposal. He’ll also do so under his third offensive coordinator in College Park with former Miami (FL) assistant Josh Gattis fine-tuning Locksley’s offense heading into the fall.

The identity of the offense remains the same with a deep crew of skill players leading the way. Gone are Rakim Jarrett, Jacob Copeland, Dontay Demus and CJ Dippre, but the Terps return a handful of familiar faces including Jeshaun Jones, Octavian Smith and Tai Felton while Kaden Prather and Tyrese Chambers gives the new-look receiver room firepower. Add in a veteran run game and improved pass protection from the running backs and the Terps have reason to be confident in their signal-caller.

Arguably Maryland’s biggest question this offseason sits in the trenches as offensive line coach Brian Braswell replaces four new starters, but Tagovailoa showed strong efficiency on short throws one season ago, completing over 71% of his passes within ten yards, as players like Jeshaun Jones, Tyrese Chambers, Octavian Smith and Tai Felton can thrive across the middle of the field. Tagovailoa has been able to find inconsistent success on his deep balls, but he’ll have an opportunity to quell concerns about his arm strengths with deep threats like Prather and Felton available this fall.

Led by Roman Hemby, the experience of the rushing attack gives Maryland’s offense a chance to alleviate pressure on Tagovailoa and the passing game with a chance to create a more balanced attack.

Tagovailoa has gradually quieted concerns about his efficiency after taking a step forward with his decision-making in 2022, but now, his biggest item left on his to-do list is also a box head coach Mike Locksley and Maryland is looking to check off: beat one of the Big Ten’s elite teams.

Maryland has come a long way from Tagovailoa’s debut game, where the Terps fell 30-0 in Evanston, and it showed in last season’s near upset against Ohio State in College Park. Maryland was also one of two Big Ten teams to lose by less than one score to Michigan, and it came in a game where the Terps leaned on Billy Edwards to close out the fourth quarter. This fall, Maryland will get its crack against the Big Ten’s best with Penn State and Michigan headed to College Park while an Oct. 7 road trip to Ohio State marks the second road conference game.

Tagovailoa enters the 2023 season already in possession of eleven different program records, but a signature win is the last benchmark left on his resume.

While Maryland enters the season with the 17th-best quarterback room, according to Phil Steele’s college football preview, Tagovailoa has improved on his efficiency each season with 17 touchdowns to his six interceptions one season ago.

ESPN’s Greg McElroy ranked Tagovailoa as the second-best quarterback in the Big Ten, while Sporting News ranked the Terps’ veteran as the 21st-best quarterback heading into the 2023 season.

Tagovailoa returns for another year with the Terps, and he’s made 29 starts the last three seasons. Tagovailoa’s passing totals dipped last season. He’s averaged 3,434 yards, 22 TDs and nine interceptions the last two years. However, and an encouraging stretch against Ohio State and in the Mayo Bowl against NC State showed potential for more in 2023. Tagovailoa was 1-3 with four TDs and four interceptions against ranked teams last season. Will he score a signature victory against the Big Ten East powerhouses?

Behind Tagovailoa, Maryland has confidence in its depth with Billy Edwards Jr. back for his second season with the program, while the second-year jump from former DeMatha (MD) and Smyrna (DE) quarterback Cam Edge into spring ball adds confidence to the future of the room. Maryland rounds out the room with Jayden Sauray and Champ Long as Gattis and the offensive staff look to build on the third-best passing attack in the conference last season.

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