Mike Locksley talks Taulia Tagoaviloa, NIL’s impact on Maryland football

Maryland football has its roster largely set for spring ball with signing day now complete, but the beginning of the offseason marked a flurry for head coach Mike Locksley and his staff. Jaishawn Barham and Corey Dyches were among the double-digit departures immediately after the 2023 season, though the staff did well retaining its core group of impact players for 2024. Still, head coach Mike Locksley called the two weeks following the regular-season finale win vs. Rutgers the “toughest two weeks I’ve ever had as a college coach.”

“Because of this portal, NIL, your third-team tailback coming in and saying ‘I need $100,000 or I’m going into the portal.’ And you’re like ‘where does this magic $100,000 number come from?’,” Locksley said on BMitch & Finlay. “I sat in my office and basically every meeting I had was – and we had seven wins, going to a bowl and taking the next step – but everything coming in was like ‘I want this, I want that.’ The greatest team sport has now become kind of individualized.”

The two weeks following the Rutgers win didn’t just task Maryland with closing out its 2024 class, but begin identifying its transfer portal target with the list of available players evolving every minute. Maryland was able to move quickly in the portal by adding Jalen Huskey and MJ Morris among others, while the flip of CB Braydon Lee from South Carolina capped off the December signing period. Through all the efforts from the staff to add to the roster, that also included in-home visits with current players to keep core players in the fold as Locksley has long been a proponent for guardrails in the new NIL era of college athletics.

“It’s a new landscape. I’m not bitching about it or complaining about it. We have to figure it out and at Maryland we’re working to figure it out. We’ve got some people that are really supporting us. And after that two-week window – all of us went through it. I’ve talked to all of my buddies that are head coaches and it’s just a different landscape. Until we get guardrails put on [with] NIL, transfer portal – kids should get paid, but we just need to figure out the best way to do it. It’s my job now to educate them on that end of the business side of it.”

Meanwhile, Maryland will turn the page to a new starting quarterback in 2024 with MJ Morris looking to learn the offense while Billy Edwards Jr. and Cam Edge look to battle for the starting job. Maryland’s bowl game against Auburn gave Locksley his first chance to evaluate both Edwards and Edge across a bigger sample size, but the status of Taulia Tagovailoa and a potential sixth season heated up through bowl prep.

After Taulia Tagovailoa’s waiver for another season was denied, Tagovailoa shifted his attention to the Shrine Bowl where he finished 9-of-14 for 142 yards and one rushing touchdown last month. For Locksley, the chance to suit up again in college was something the Terps tried to make a reality.

“Now, there was a time when he opted out that he applied for a waiver to try to get an extra year and had a shot at it. He played in five games at Bama and the fifth game or one of the games near the end was the game Tua [Tagovailoa] got hurt in, the Mississippi State game. Maybe emotionally, he went in and I know that we wrote a waiver, Alabama wrote a waiver. As I reverse engineer things and I always try to look at it from the other side of the spectrum, he has a chance to make possibly mean. I know he was offered about $1.5 million to go play quarterback somewhere else a year ago.”

Locksley laughed when asked if the school was Auburn, the team long rumored to be in pursuit of the Terps’ starter last spring.

“I just know this, that to have that type of money available and then the uncertainty of where he’s going to be drafted, these are the business decisions. People laugh at Caleb Williams and I know him and his dad Carl really well in that him waiting to declare. Well I mean, when you’re making $18 million, $13 million [in] NIL dollars…if that’s the case, I don’t know his number, but he’s not going to make that as a starting quarterback in the NFL with the rookie salary cap.”

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February 25, 2024