Tagovailoa or LeGendre? Maryland football coach Mike Locksley still mum on starting quarterback | NOTES

Maryland football coach Mike Locksley knows whether redshirt freshman Lance LeGendre or sophomore transfer Taulia Tagovailoa will start at quarterback in Saturday’s season opener at Northwestern at 7 p.m., and the players know, too. But Locksley declined to share that information during a news conference Tuesday afternoon.

“I see a plan where both of them will have some role with our team, but I’m just not ready to announce to the public who it is,” he said. “We know who our quarterback will be, and we have had the conversations with the players that are involved, and we’re excited about the direction. But from a competitive advantage standpoint, it really does us no good to announce our starting quarterback today.”


Locksley said he shared his decision with the 6-foot-1, 215-pound LeGendre and the 5-11, 205-pound Tagovailoa during a joint meeting Sunday at 5 p.m. and gave them time to provide feedback. Then he met with each quarterback separately to make sure they were comfortable.

Locksley said he does not envision determining the starting quarterback on a game-by-game basis.


“I don’t foresee us putting short leashes on all the different things that come up when you name a quarterback or when you present a starter at the quarterback position,” he said. “I want them to have every confidence knowing that as a coaching staff and as a team, we have confidence in them.”

Locksley pointed out that whoever is not the starter could still see some time on the field based on certain packages. He mentioned using a similar philosophy at Alabama when he was the offensive coordinator and had Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa, Taulia’s older brother.

“I can tell you that because of the depth that we’ve created with both of those guys and their abilities, we’re not going to hesitate to create advantages for us based on what they both can do,” he said.

Inexperience could be a factor as LeGendre and Tagovailoa have combined for 15 total pass attempts in their college careers. But fifth-year senior running back Jake Funk said both candidates have their teammates' support.

“They’ve both done a great job throughout camp,” he said. “They both have shown signs of greatness, and their competition has been a real competition. I’m excited to see who the coaching staff names as the starter, and whoever it is, we’re just going to go from there. Ultimately, you guys know how a season goes. There’s a lot of things that can happen. Both of them need to stay ready, and both of them need to be ready when their number is called.”

Raising the volume

Junior Ayinde Eley, the defense’s returning leading tackler with 79 stops, is locked in a battle with sophomore Fa’Najae Gotay for the right to start at weak-side linebacker in the Terps' 3-4 defensive alignment. Gotay finished last season with 26 tackles in nine games, including one start in a season-ending 19-16 loss to Michigan State on Nov. 30.

The 5-10, 222-pound Gotay said his approach to competing for a starting role has not changed much, but did acknowledge that he is trying to improve his communication skills.

“I feel like I need to become more vocal,” he said. “I don’t talk that much out there on the field. Once I become more vocal, it’ll show the coaches that I’m starting to care that much more. I think that will be a good thing for me to do.”

Ahmad McCullough, a sophomore from Mount Saint Joseph, will start at strong-side linebacker after playing in one game last season. Former Calvert Hall star Chance Campbell beat out highly touted freshman Ruben Hyppolite and senior Shaq Smith to start at middle linebacker. Campbell had 54 tackles in 10 games last season, making two starts.

Rising rookie

Among the potential starters listed in Maryland’s two-deep depth chart is a single true freshman. Tarheeb Still is battling with sophomore Deonte Banks for one cornerback position.

Banks started eight games last fall and had 28 tackles, one interception and two pass breakups, but Locksley said Still has made a smooth transition from high school.

“I think with Tarheeb, the thing that really jumps out is his comfort level,” Locksley said. “The stage doesn’t seem too big for him. He’s a guy that has fit in and assimilated easily, has picked up our system. Tremendous ball skills, a guy that has competed really well. So going into this game, I can see him, Deonte Banks, [junior] Kenny Bennett, [junior] Jakorian Bennett and [sophomore Lavante] Gater all having a role for us. But he’s one of the true freshmen that has jumped out.”


Familiar face

Saturday’s game brings together Locksley and Northwestern coach and former Wildcats linebacker Pat Fitzgerald, a pair that is well acquainted with each other from the 1998 season when the former was the running back coach and the latter was a defensive graduate assistant on former Terps coach Ron Vanderlinden’s staff.

Locksley said he knew Fitzgerald was head coaching material after observing the latter’s attention to detail.

“Then I had a chance to watch him grow as a young assistant when he took over the Northwestern program under those adverse conditions of losing their head football coach,” he said. “And me being at Illinois at the time, there was a natural rivalry between Illinois and Northwestern. So there’s always been a fondness as far as our relationship and how it’s grown over the years. Just also a great amount of respect that I have for the job he’s done at a place like Northwestern where prior to going to the Rose Bowl [in 1995], it hadn’t had a lot of success. He’s been able to build on that and keep it going for a long period of time.”

Extra points

>> Tua Tagovailoa, the fifth overall pick in April’s NFL draft, was promoted Tuesday morning to starting quarterback by the Miami Dolphins, which delighted Locksley. “Really happy for Tua,” he said. “I know for a competitor, the frustration of not playing, but I understand what the NFL is about and what big-time college football is all about when these decisions are made. Obviously, the Dolphins feel he’s ready or is at the point where he could be a starter.”

>> Locksley said he was generally pleased with what he saw in the team’s third and final scrimmage Saturday with one exception: too many presnap penalties. “The false starts, the offsides penalties are all things we can control,” he said. “And I can tell you playing Northwestern, they’re one of those teams that they don’t beat themselves and they do what they do on offense, defense and special teams and they just put you into situations where you go out and you beat yourself. They don’t do that. So good teams don’t beat themselves. When you’ve got 56 new faces that haven’t been Terps, we’re just working through the kinks of making sure that we understand that it’s going to take playing with great discipline and not beating ourselves to have the type of season we want to have.”


Saturday, 7 p.m.


TV: Big Ten Network


Radio: 1300 AM, 105.7 FM

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