Locksley on Taulia’s Plans, Closing ’23 Cycle, Young Playmakers, Bowl Prep

If you ask head coach Mike Locksley, he expects his signal caller to return in 2023.

“As far as I know, he plans to return. There’s always—can’t say always, but he’s been practicing leading, leading the charge there. We’re excited about it. We’ll continue to build the system around the things he does well and develop him,” he said on Tuesday. “It’s great to be able to recruit knowing that you’ve got a second-team all-conference quarterback coming back that has a tremendous skill set and has played a major role in the elevation of our program along with a few others.”

As for Taulia himself, he pumped the breaks on an official decision as he weighs the pros and cons with his family leading up to the Duke’s Mayo Bowl on December 30. “I think that’s a decision that me and my family need to sit down and talk about. Probably make a decision soon, probably after the bowl game but my biggest focus is the bowl game right now,” Tagovailoa added Tuesday. Even with another year left, Taulia has more than left his imprint on the Maryland record book as he enters the bowl game in career passing yards (7,316), touchdowns (50), 300-yard games (12), completion percentage (68%) and total offense (7,503).

While Taulia’s return would bolster Maryland’s outlook in 2023, he would officially do that without three of his top four receivers from the 2022 season after Rakim Jarrett joined Jacob Copeland and Dontay Demus to opt out of the bowl game and enter the 2023 NFL Draft. The longtime decision from Jarrett was one that was expected, but still, his impact from signing with Maryland over LSU through his three-year career in College Park helped fuel Locksley’s turnaround. The former top-50 recruit knew that he had a chance to shine in the Terrapins offense.

“For me, I had all the offers you could imagine so I say you don’t have to go to the big named school to kind of do what you want to do in life,” Jarrett added. “Production, all you have to do is have the production and scouts and the NFL teams will find you. And you can do that on any field, we all have the same 120 yards to play on, so I think it’s up to the player and not where you’re at.” The junior receiver admitted he could’ve suited up in the season-finale against Rutgers despite hyperextending his knee but took note of the competition ahead.

“I think I could’ve went, but I would’ve had to brace it up. I mean, it’s Rutgers. They didn’t need me. We won by 30 points. I’m sorry Rutgers.”

With practice in full swing weeks ahead of the bowl game, head coach Mike Locksley said his staff is focused on closing out the 2023 class with eight days remaining before the early signing period. “We’re trying to close and we’re in and out of planes, trains in automobiles, trying to find the next generation of Terps and I’m excited about the way this thing is shaping up and definitely looking forward to getting the signing day eight days away.” In the meantime, they’ll put the first touches on the gameplan.

“We had three practices a week ago. We’re going every day this week reinstalling our systems, reinstalling basically the first four or five installs of our offense, defense, and special teams, cuz when we get better fundamentally, we get better collectively. So really excited about how we’ve looked and what we’ve done and as we get into our game planning on Monday, we’ll put together the best plan we can to find a way to go down to Charlotte and hopefully come our way with a victory.”

Similar to how the Pinstripe Bowl teased potential new standouts for the 2022 season as both Roman Hemby made the most of their carries, the Duke’s Mayo Bowl will give fans another glimpse into who the new playmakers could be in 2023. It’s no surprise the underclassmen receivers will get a chance to shine.

“I’d see guys like Octavian Smith, I see guys, Leon Haughton stepping up. Tai Felton has played a major role all year long and just kind of a complimentary role to the receivers that we’ve had. But I think all those guys, Corey Dyches continues to be one of those guys. So, I think you’ll see a lot of young guys in the secondary that’ll have the impact, a chance to play. So, I mean, when you look across the board, we’ve prepared for this because we play a lot of players, and I always say this at the beginning of the year, that when we rotate and play a lot of these guys, it’s because of times like this where they have to play. And now we’ve got some seasoned young players that have been able to maybe get their feet wet some.”

Maryland will kickoff against NC State on December 30 at 12 PM.

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