Maryland head football coach Michael Locksley doesn’t know if Taulia Tagovailoa will be eligible for the 2020 season, but regardless of Tagovailoa’s short-term status, Locksley is confident the program is headed in the right direction with momentum building in recruiting.
Tagovailoa, who spent the 2019 season at Alabama, announced he was transferring to Maryland May 15. A consensus four-star talent out of high school, he is the brother of Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. He played in five games for the Crimson Tide last year, completing 9 of 12 passes. He has three years of eligibility remaining.
If Tagovailoa were to be eligible for the 2020 season, he’d compete in camp for the starting job with veteran Josh Jackson and redshirt freshman Lance LeGendre. With the NCAA delaying the vote on one-time transfer exceptions until 2021, Tagovailoa will need a waiver to play in 2020.
“I won’t speculate. We signed him with the thought process that he would have to sit a year,” Locksley said on Glenn Clark Radio May 27. “We were hoping that maybe the one-time transfer rule would go into effect as we pursued any and all quarterbacks and position groups that we need. But when we signed him and he committed, we took him with the mindset that he would not be available. But obviously the NCAA has a waiver process that we will pursue and see if there’s a way to gain immediate eligibility for him.”
Locksley, who coached at Alabama from 2016-2018, helped recruit Tagovailoa to Tuscaloosa, Ala., and was the offensive coordinator when his brother put up monster numbers (3,966 yards, 43 touchdowns and six interceptions on 69 percent passing) in 2018.
The tight-knit Tagovailoa family is moving from Alabama to South Florida with Tua set to play for the Dolphins, which led to some speculation that Taulia would transfer to a school in Florida. But Locksley said he knew he had a chance to convince Taulia to come to Maryland because of the relationship he had with the Tagovailoa family and the opportunity the Terps presented with only two scholarship quarterbacks on the roster.
Mark Freeman, Tagovailoa’s coach at Thompson High School (Ala.), and Crimson Tide Sports Network analyst Tyler Watts said Tagovailoa stands out because of his competitiveness, confidence, athleticism, arm strength and quick release. Locksley said Tagovailoa’s track record in high school shows what kind of passer he is. Tagovailoa threw for more than 14,000 yards in high school and excelled at Thompson, a Class 7A program in Alabama.
“I think that speaks volumes because if you look at the company that he’s in throwing for that amount of yardage at the high school level, [it] shows that he has an acumen and a skill set in the passing game,” Locksley said. “We all know that the game has really, really become a spread-out game, one that the ability to throw the ball down the field and throw the ball accurately is a must and it helps establish even the run game because of your ability to do that.”
And Tagovailoa can run a little bit, too.
“He’s a guy that when plays break down and things kind of change on him, he has the ability to get himself out of trouble with his athleticism but still make those … off-platform throws,” Locksley said. “Really competitive spirit. He’s a guy that makes the players around him better and that’s something I saw having recruited him in high school and the level he took that program to at Thompson High School and then even at Alabama and the fact that he played in five games last year as a true freshman.”
The addition of Tagovailoa is just part of the work Locksley has done in his first full offseason as the head coach at Maryland. Despite going 3-9 in 2019, Locksley and his staff have gotten off to a remarkable start with the 2021 recruiting class, particularly locally, after having to stray outside the DMV to build the 2020 class.
Locksley’s vision when he took the job was to build a winning program in the Big Ten through local talent. He likens the current build to the one he went through as the running backs coach at Maryland under Ron Vanderlinden from 1997-2000. During that time, the program elevated the talent level thanks to its recruiting, and the team popped under Ralph Friedgen from 2001-2003.
“People see it, and it’s very believable because it’s happened before,” Locksley said. “It’s happened most of the places I’ve been when I’ve been given enough time to recruit and bring in the right kind of kids and help be a part of setting the culture, whether it was as an assistant role or coordinator role. There’s no doubt that’s it’s not a matter of if but when here at Maryland for us.”
To hear more from Locksley, including his thoughts on the one-time transfer exception and if players should be able to profit off of their name, image and likeness, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Alabama Athletics Photography