When Maryland coach Michael Locksley said at a Big Ten media day that the Terrapins are ready to compete for a conference title, it was an indication of how far the program has come. It may have also been a sign of urgency.
It would be a shocker if the Terps win the Big Ten this season — they didn’t receive a single vote for the preseason AP Top 25 — but Maryland does have a luxury that doesn’t come around every year: Quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa is entering his fourth season as a starter. After going 7-6 and then 8-5 the past two seasons, it’s no surprise the Terrapins feel they’re capable of more.
“Our program is at a point finally we can say we’re here to compete for Big Ten championships,” Locksley said last month. “You haven’t heard me say that in the previous four times I’ve been in front of you guys, but I think now is the time.”
The Terps have shown they can compete with — and often show superiority against — the more mediocre Big Ten teams. Over the past two seasons, they are 0-8 against Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin and Iowa, losing those matchups by an average of 25.9 points. Maryland is 7-3 in its other league games.
The margins of defeat against the top opponents were a little more palatable last year, when the Terps lost 34-27 to Michigan and 43-30 to Ohio State. But for all the strides Maryland has made under Locksley, the Terrapins haven’t really had a signature victory.
“The players and coaches in our program know what our expectations are,” Locksley said. “They know that the work has to supersede the goal. We’re not going to let a goal of wanting to compete for championships get in the way of the type of work and the amount of work it’s going to take to do that.”
The eight wins last season were Maryland’s most since 2010, and the Terps have won bowls in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 2002 and 2003.
Tagovailoa has already set Maryland career records in yards passing, touchdowns passing, completions and total offense. He’s also been responsible for 91% of the team’s completions over the past three years.
“So many years. I feel old,” Tagovailoa said. “It’s just my process. I love Maryland, I love being here. I love working with the coaches, the guys. The community over here, they’re very supportive.”
ON THE GROUND
Although Maryland lost receiver Rakim Jarrett to the NFL draft, the Terps do return their top running back from a season ago. Roman Hemby ran for 989 yards and 10 touchdowns as a redshirt freshman.
Maryland has a couple of accomplished assistants on the staff this year. Josh Gattis, previously an offensive coordinator at Miami and Michigan and a co-offensive coordinator at Alabama, is now an offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for the Terps.
Kevin Sumlin is at Maryland as a co-offensive coordinator, tight ends coach and associate head coach. He was a head coach at Houston, Texas A&M and Arizona before coaching the USFL’s Houston Gamblers in 2022.
Maryland opens Sept. 2 against Towson. The most anticipated nonconference matchup will surely be a visit from Virginia on Sept. 15.
The Terps open Big Ten play at Michigan State on Sept. 23. They are at Ohio State on Oct. 7, then host Penn State on Nov. 4 and Michigan on Nov. 18.