With Maryland football’s season opener just around the corner, we’re previewing each position group one at a time.
First up is an inside look at the quarterback room and the presumed starter Taulia Tagovailoa.
Maryland was looking to add some depth at the quarterback position through grad transfer Reece Udinski, who committed to the Terps in January. Udinski had a successful run as the starter at Virginia Military Institute. However, he tore his ACL during his team’s spring season. While Udinski is expected to be cleared sooner than originally anticipated, it’s unclear if he’ll be ready to compete for the starting job in camp.
Eric Najarian is another name that Maryland is hoping can provide them depth in the quarterback room. The junior appeared in one game last season, completing 12-of-23 pass attempts for 218 yards and two touchdowns.
The final Terps quarterback to look out for is sophomore David Foust. Although he did not receive playing time during the 2019 season, Foust is added depth to this roster.
While Tagovailoa has not officially been named the starter for the opener against West Virginia on Sept. 4, it is certainly expected he will be Maryland’s guy this season.
Maryland’s 2021 quarterback depth
|Taulia Tagovailoa||Junior||75 Comp, 122 Att, 1,011 Yards, 7 TD, 7 Int|
|Reece Udinski||Senior||124 Comp, 172 Att, 1,087 Yards, 7 TD, 2 Int (Through four games with VMI)|
|Eric Najarian||Junior||12 Comp, 23 Att, 218 Yards, 2 TD, 0 Int|
|David Foust||Sophomore||Did not appear in a game|
Will Tagovailoa take the next step this season?
In his debut with the Terps, Tagovailoa was inconsistent in four games throughout a shortened 2020 season but had some monster performances that showed the Big Ten what he is capable of.
Heading into his second season in College Park, Tagovailoa has had a full offseason to be with the team and continue to learn new wrinkles in the offense, which was much more difficult with the COVID restrictions in place before the 2020 season.
Tagovailoa threw for over 1,000 yards and seven touchdowns in four games in 2022. Completing 75-of-122 pass attempts, the Hawaii native led the Big Ten in yards per completion, ranked second in passing efficiency and third in passing yards per game.
In a win against Minnesota last season, Tagovailoa threw for 394 yards and had five total touchdowns. For every one of those dominant performances last season, there was one like the loss against Indiana, where Tagovailoa threw three interceptions and had a completion percentage of 47% on 36 attempts.
With time and reps, the consistency will come, which is why Tagovailoa is expected to take a leap this season and become an elite quarterback in the conference. The dual-threat quarterback was named to the Maxwell Award watchlist prior to the season.
The offense will be centered around the passing game
At the Big Ten media day in Indianapolis, head coach Mike Locksley said, “The best is ahead for us and it starts with our QB room.”
With the emergence of Tagovailoa last season, the offense went to a pass-heavy attack. In Tagovailoa’s sophomore season and with newly hired offensive coordinator Dan Enos leading the offense, expect the Terps to rely even more on the passing game.
Tagovailoa averaged 30.5 pass attempts per game last season. That’s the most attempts a Maryland quarterback has averaged in the last five years. Locksley and Enos recognize the talent they have in Tagovailoa and know the endless offensive schemes they can run with Tagovailoa’s ability to get out of the pocket.
The offensive firepower Maryland has on the outside with explosive wide receivers will also help Tagovailoa this season. These receiving weapons will allow Maryland’s offensive staff to depend on the passing attack. Sophomore Rakim Jarrett is a five-star recruit who is one of the top receivers in the nation. Senior Dontay Demus Jr. is another star receiver who is a problem for opposing defenses.
The Jarrett and Demus duo is one of the best receiving duos in the nation. The two premier playmakers will make Tagovailoa’s job easier in his second season throwing to the tandem.
For the first time in a long time, Maryland has found a quarterback that fans can get excited about. While Tagovailoa has much to prove this season, all the right pieces are in place for Tagovailoa to take the leap and lead Maryland in the right direction.