Taulia Tagovailoa fuels Maryland football hopes as camp opens

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Michael Locksley is now not the coach of a Maryland football program that is wading by way of the early levels of a troublesome rebuilding venture. This is Year 4. References to key cultural change and the necessity for years-long improvement have drifted into the previous. Locksley is in command of a crew constructed along with his imaginative and prescient. And the Terrapins have improved every season, evolving from a Big Ten bottom-feeder to a bowl-eligible squad with a profitable document.

As this program has developed, so has quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa, who has fueled Maryland’s rise whereas changing into extra than simply “Tua’s brother.” Rather than quarterback questions and considerations, Locksley has a gifted offensive chief poised to interrupt extra faculty data.

So as Locksley’s crew opened preseason camp Wednesday, the coach was snug saying, “We’ve acquired actually excessive expectations for ourselves getting into this ’22 season.” Some gamers have shared their ambitions for this 12 months and past — competing for Big Ten championships — however Locksley would not elaborate on particular benchmarks. The final measure, although, all the time wins. Last 12 months, Maryland completed 7-6, the crew’s greatest mark since 2014. This season, the Terps have an opportunity to indicate they’ll obtain extra.

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That begins with Tagovailoa. He provides Maryland stability each coach and fan base would embrace. The brilliant moments from Tagovailoa and his key receivers, who all return for 2022, provide promise that may overshadow preseason worries — the largely untested operating again group or the losses on protection, as an illustration.

Maryland’s whole group of beginning offensive linemen returns from final season, and offensive coordinator Dan Enos mentioned: “We really feel like not solely do we’ve a bunch that may play at a really excessive degree, however we really feel like we’ve very succesful backups and younger gamers which are going to be progressing into the way forward for the offensive line.” That ought to assist Tagovailoa thrive.

Last season, Tagovailoa threw for 3,860 yards, breaking this system’s single-season passing document. If he replicates that efficiency this 12 months, he’ll cruise previous the college’s profession passing document (7,301 yards from Scott Milanovich within the 1992-1995 seasons) and assist the Terps generate an explosive offense.

Locksley believes Tagovailoa is an underappreciated quarterback — primarily as a result of some outsiders fashioned their opinion on him based mostly on his poor efficiency underneath the highlight towards Iowa final season — and this 12 months, he mentioned he needs the redshirt junior to proceed to “emotionally mature.” Last season, Tagovailoa threw 26 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, however 5 of these picks got here within the Iowa recreation.

“Sometimes when he is a bit bit possibly indecisive, he is not fairly as good,” Enos mentioned. “The strategy of getting him to the place he’s very decisive on all the things we’re doing, I believe we’ll be capable of remove lots of the errors.”

Here’s what else to know in regards to the Maryland football crew heading into preseason camp:

The Terps misplaced a pair of standout vast receivers, Dontay Demus Jr. and Jeshaun Jones, to main knee accidents final season. Demus led the Big Ten in receiving yards earlier than he tore his ACL within the fifth recreation. Both participated within the first official apply of the preseason.

Demus determined to place his NFL goals on maintain to return to Maryland, and even after coping with a bone bruise in his foot along with the knee harm, he was shocked by the pace of his restoration.

“I’m just about doing all the things aside from rather less contact,” mentioned Demus, a senior. “I really feel like all the things’s fairly 100%, to be trustworthy.”

Jones, in his fifth season as a Terp, tore his different ACL in 2019 and mentioned his most up-to-date restoration course of was “rather a lot smoother than my first time.” Jones and Demus be a part of junior star Rakim Jarrett (829 receiving yards final season) and Florida switch Jacob Copeland (642 yards in 2021) to kind a formidable unit.

“I believe it could possibly be scary with all of the weapons we’ve outdoors, with Lia within the pocket, the road up entrance, the backs we have got,” Jones mentioned. “I believe the cross recreation might actually open up for us.”

In Maryland’s spring recreation, offensive flashes, defensive considerations

The Terps misplaced each beginning safeties from final season, Jordan Mosley and Nick Cross. Mosley had been a daily starter for 3 seasons, and Cross developed right into a third-round NFL draft choose. Their absences left questions in regards to the place group.

Dante Trader Jr., a sophomore and projected starter, talked to his coaches about how Mosley and Cross left large footwear to fill. Trader mentioned his coaches informed him: “Don’t even have a look at it like that. It’s a complete new crew, a complete new feeling. You’ve acquired to set one other commonplace.” Trader appeared in 12 video games final season and will play alongside Beau Brade, a junior who would even be a first-time starter.

“We really feel like we’re essentially the most underrated place group on the crew,” Trader mentioned. “And we like it. As we must be, as a result of we do not have the blokes which were taking part in on a regular basis. … We’ve acquired rather a lot to show this 12 months. We simply need to allow them to know we’re a bunch of canine.”

Maryland must establish dependable operating backs for this season and can largely lean on a bunch of younger gamers: sophomore Colby McDonald, redshirt freshman Roman Hemby, redshirt freshman Antwain Littleton II and freshman Ramon Brown. Challen Faamatau, a junior faculty switch who earned a scholarship earlier than final season, may be an possibility.

Enos mentioned the workers is happy in regards to the younger backs. Littleton, McDonald and Hemby flashed their potential in Maryland’s bowl recreation final 12 months, every scoring a landing. But they’re nonetheless an untested group getting into this season.

Chad Ryland will take over kicking duties for the Terps, filling the place beforehand held by Joseph Petrino for 4 seasons. Ryland, a four-year starter at Eastern Michigan, transferred to Maryland after setting the Eagles’ single-season document for factors (104) in 2021. He kicked a career-long 55-yard discipline purpose late within the season and shortly after made the leap to a Power Five program, utilizing an additional season of eligibility granted to athletes due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Deep down, each child’s dream is to go as large as attainable and make kicks on the most important stage, which I’m clearly going to have an opportunity to do that 12 months strolling into Penn State, Michigan, Wisconsin,” Ryland mentioned. “I’m fired up about that, and that is one thing that contributed to my alternative to return right here.”

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