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If deemed eligible, Taulia Tagovailoa makes a strong case to start for Maryland football

The highly touted sophomore transfer could be the key to the Terps’ offense.

Arkansas v Alabama Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Our summer profile series is back and we’re previewing Maryland football one position group at a time.

We’ve gone over wide receivers, tight ends and running backs so far, and now we are reviewing the Terps’ quarterbacks. Wes took a look at redshirt freshman Lance LeGendre yesterday, and today we’ll take a look at sophomore Taulia Tagovailoa.

Taulia Tagovailoa, QB, No. 3

Height: 5’11
Weight: 208
Year: Sophomore
High School: Thompson
Hometown: Ewa Beach, Hawaii
Career Stats (2019 at Alabama): 5 games; 9 completions, 12 attempts, 100 yards, 1 TD

The background

Tagovailoa was a four-star recruit in 2018 and was listed as the No. 5 pro-style quarterback in his class. On signing day, Tagovailoa pledged to join his brother Tua at Alabama over programs like Florida, LSU, Michigan and Oregon, to name a few.

Tagovailoa had an impressive high school career playing his first two seasons in Hawaii before moving to Alabama with his family and attending Thompson High School. He was a four year starter, spending two seasons at each school, and in his first season at Thompson, the junior led his team to the Class 7A Region 3 Championship and the state semifinals, which was enough to earn First Team All-State honors.

He earned First Team All-State honors again as a senior with the Warriors finishing in second in their region. But they fell short in the state championship game, conceding to the most dominant team in Alabama.

At the time, current Maryland head coach Mike Locksley was heading into his third year on the Alabama coaching staff. While in Tuscaloosa, Locksley recruited and coached Tua Tagovailoa and became very close with the Tagovailoa family, leading to the recruitment of Taulia.

Locksley departed for the head coaching job in College Park prior to Tagovailoa’s freshman year at Alabama. Tua Tagovailoa was recently selected with the fifth overall pick by the Miami Dolphins in April’s NFL Draft. With his brother out of Alabama, Tagovailoa entered the NCAA transfer portal after his freshman season to build his own legacy.

A week after entering the portal, Tagovailoa committed to Maryland, becoming the just one of three quarterbacks on scholarship for the Terps.

Tagovailoa has the strongest arm on the roster

The 5’11 quarterback had one of the most historic seasons in Alabama high school football history. While at Thompson, he became the only player in the state’s history to throw for at least four 400-yard games.

He passed for 14,207 yards and 135 touchdowns across his four years of high school at Kapolei in Hawaii and Thompson. In addition to his strong arm, Tagovailoa also rushed for 11 scores.

Thompson plays in one of the nation’s toughest and most competitive high school football conferences. Tua, while playing in a much weaker conference in Hawaii, passed for 8,158 yards and 84 touchdowns with 1,727 rushing yards and 27 rushing touchdowns during his high school career.

Tagovailoa possesses a strong arm and has the ability to throw accurately on the run, which is something Locksley has said he wants in a starting quarterback.

While competing at the Elite 11, the premier quarterback competition in the country, Tagovailoa beat everyone out in the “Long Ball Challenge,” slinging the ball 66 yards. In doing so, he beat out guys such as Spencer Rattler (Oklahoma), Bo Nix (Auburn), Jayden Daniels (Arizona State) and Ryan Hilinski (South Carolina).

Maryland’s offense in recent years has been much more run-heavy, especially with NFL talent in running backs Ty Johnson, Anthony McFarland Jr. and Javon Leake. With the running back group on the more suspect side this season, Locksley will likely be forced to run a much more pass-heavy offense, especially with how deep and talented the wide receiving corps is.

Josh Jackson, who was Maryland’s starting quarterback last season, was not impressive in throwing the ball, though he dealt with some injuries to himself and the offensive line. Lance LeGendre showed some glimpses of his potential but he remains more of a dual-threat quarterback, leaving Tagovailoa as the quarterback on the roster that best fits the needs of this year’s offense.

If granted immediate eligibility, he is in a prime spot to earn the starting job

Maryland’s starting signal caller will all depend on whether the NCAA grants Tagovailoa immediate eligibility.

If he receives the waiver, he seems to be the favorite for the starting job. He is the best passer of the trio, which would be the best fit for the pass-heavy offensive scheme that can be expected this season.

However, Tagovailoa joined Maryland’s roster in the middle of May and the lack of team practices this summer, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, could play a role as he tries to learn a new offense.

Jackson struggled last season as the signal caller, throwing for just 12 scores while completing 47 percent (98-of-207) of his passes and tossing six interceptions. LeGendre showed a lot of potential in just three games before his season was cut short due to injury.

LeGendre redshirted the rest of the year to have four years of eligibility remaining, while also spending the year learning the offense and most of the receiving corps, which could potentially give him the advantage over Tagovailoa, who is just learning the new system.

As Locksley continues to reshape and build up this young program, he has the option to use Tagovailoa immediately or redshirt him and look towards the future — assuming he is granted immediate eligibility — with a top 20 recruiting class coming in next season.

A lot depends on whether Tagovailoa will be given immediate eligibility by the NCAA, but in the past the organization has been lenient with quarterbacks — especially high profile ones.

Once the team starts mandatory practices, Locksley will get a better gauge on who the 2020 starting signal caller will be, but the decision is sure to come later than usual.