Looking to ice a road win over Indiana, Billy Edwards Jr. pulled back the handoff to redshirt freshman running back Roman Hemby and scooted up the middle for a 3-yard touchdown.
Maryland star quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa was carted off with a knee injury at the beginning of the fourth quarter, and the redshirt freshman and Wake Forest transfer came in to relieve him. Though he didn’t complete any of his three passes, Edwards managed the game well and showed the flashes and charisma that it takes to compete in college football.
Tagovailoa’s injury was a reaggravation of a previous injury that he suffered in week four against Michigan — a sprained MCL. Tagovailoa did not skip a beat following the initial injury, playing against Michigan State the next week and leading the Terps to victory. He was wearing a knee brace on his right knee, though, and was wearing it when he suffered the contact injury against Indiana.
Head coach Mike Locksley is thankful that Tagovailoa did wear the brace (against his own wishes), and he is considered a “game-time decision” for Saturday’s homecoming matchup against Big Ten bottom-feeder Northwestern. Tagovailoa was a participant during Tuesday’s practice — at least in the media-open session — and seemed to move well.
But if he’s not 100% healthy, why play him against Northwestern? The Terps are two-touchdown favorites according to DraftKings Sportsbook, and the bye week looms following the homecoming showdown against the 1-5 Wildcats. The truth is that the Terps will go as far as Tagovailoa goes, so there may be minimal reason to risk further injury against a bad team. Besides, if Edwards may be the quarterback of the future, why not give him a chance with your starting quarterback ailing?
Edwards entered the transfer portal following Wake Forest’s spring football practices and committed to Maryland on May 29. By committing to the Terps, Edwards reunited with his brother — Kyle Edwards is an offensive graduate assistant for the Terps — and returned closer to his hometown of Burke, Virginia.
Edwards redshirted with the Demon Deacons in 2021. His first playing time as a Terp came in garbage time against Buffalo in week one, and he led an impressive touchdown drive in closing time at Michigan in week four. For all intents and purposes, though, his performance in Bloomington, Indiana, was the most important football of his collegiate career.
Edwards impressed, and he is someone that his coaching staff and teammates have a lot of confidence in.
“I look at them kind of like 1A, 1B,” senior wide receiver Dontay Demus Jr. said. “They kind of just know the offense inside and out. The only thing it comes down to is that Taulia has a little more experience than Billy. So, I feel like it’s no really drop off when it comes to the offense. He knows us, receivers, backs and knows the scheme of everything. So I feel like Billy’s just on track.”
Edwards is a part of a rich football family, being the brother of Kyle — who also was a former Alabama quarterback and national champion — and the son of a 34-year high school football coach. He credits the intangible elements he brings to the Terps to his family.
“So being a coach’s kid, being around the game of football my whole life, I just think, you know, I feel like I can understand a team very well and obviously try to be a leader of the team and understand what it takes to get a group of guys to come together and commit towards a common goal, something that’s bigger than ourselves,” Edwards said. “So I think that’s definitely been something that I’ve been blessed to kind of be born into, I guess you could say, with my dad and my brother and the football background we have.”
While Edwards’ family has been an integral part of the big picture of his football career, he’s received plenty of additional guidance since coming to campus. The man ahead of him on the depth chart has been nothing but helpful for Edwards, both as a friend and a fellow quarterback.
“Taulia and the whole quarterbacks crew’s, you know, they’ve been nothing but great in terms of helping me. But outside of football, I mean Taulia’s great,” Edwards said. “We’re always joking, playing games with each other. We talk a lot outside of football, whether I see him at the apartment or wherever. But he’s been nothing but great. And obviously, I always try to pick his brain. He’s obviously been in college football a lot longer than me to just try to get whatever I can from, whether it’s playing, how you prepare, practice, whatever it is, a certain route concept.”
In terms of the offense as a whole, Locksley doesn’t believe everything is all that different with Edwards under center compared to Tagovailoa. According to Locksley, Edwards already gets 40% of the reps every week being the backup quarterback.
With the offense centered around the quarterback’s strengths, of course there will be some differences if Tagovailoa can’t go. But Locksley sees the two signal-callers as more similar than different. Locksley says that Edwards has a “weird athleticism,” comparing him to pros like Andy Dalton, not just because they may look alike.
“Yeah, I mean I’d like to think I can get it done throwing the ball and running as well,” Edwards said. “I mean at the end of the day, it’s kind of whatever the defense allows for us to do, in terms of whatever they, you know, if they want to load the box, we’re obviously gonna have to throw the ball. If they want us to give us light numbers and I get some good reads, then I can pull the ball and put my head down and run when I need to. I think being in this offense, it allows us to be very multiple and take advantage of whether I need to run the ball or throw the ball.”
The Terps certainly wish for their star to be on the field at 100% sooner rather than later, and no one is doubting that. But at least temporarily, Edwards Jr. provides a layer of excitement and comfort for Maryland, which can reach bowl eligibility at the earliest date since 2001 with a win against Northwestern.