It’s officially the football off-season, some teams are celebrating great seasons while others are stuck licking their wounds and mending their broken pride. Regardless of how the 2021 season ended, all 14 Big Ten teams must put it in their rear-view mirror and look forward to the 2022 season. There have been coaching changes, outgoing and incoming transfers, players leaving for the draft, new schemes, and new expectations. The off-season allows fans to dream of a successful 2022 campaign, and it’s up to each individual program to make that a reality.
While that process has started for the teams, as fans, we are beginning to ask the questions that programs need to answer to be successful. So that’s exactly what we’re going to do at Land-Grant Holy Land; Five Questions for each B1G team to answer this offseason.
2021 was a breakout season for the Maryland Terrapins. They went 6-6 in the regular season after beating their counterpart Rutgers in the final game of the season. Their momentum carried in their first bowl game since 2016 and led to a blowout win over Virginia Tech. Maryland will look to carry that momentum into the 2022 season but first, they must answer these five questions.
Can Taulia Tagovailoa develop into an early-round draft pick?
Taulia Tagovailoa, a former four-star prospect, transferred to Maryland after starting his college career at Alabama. Since then, he has been the Terps’ starting quarterback and has tried to lead them out of the dregs of the Big Ten.
Taulia — while talented — has never been able to put it all together for a full season. The younger brother of Alabama national championship winning quarterback and current Miami Dolphin Tau, Taulia has been up and down, but seemingly progressed with each game last season.
Entering his senior year, and his second full season as a starter (his first was the pandemic-shortened campaign in 2020), Maryland will be hoping to see their signal-called ascend to the ranks of one of the best quarterbacks in college football. If Taulia can reach his potential and develop into an early-round draft pick, then Maryland will have a chance to build on their 2021 campaign which ended with them trashing Virginia Tech in the Pinstripe Bowl.
What can the passing game look like with a healthy Dontay Demus Jr. and Rakim Jarrett?
Maryland has two potential stud wide receivers in Dontay Demus Jr. and former five-star prospect Rakim Jarrett. Demus Jr. suffered a season-ending injury early in their 2021 campaign leaving opposing defenses with the ability to focus all their attention on stopping Jarrett.
Despite missing one of their top receivers, Maryland still reached a bowl game and finished with the third-best passing offense in the Big Ten last season (behind only Ohio State and Purdue).
With both wide receivers presumably healthy for the 2022 campaign the Terrapins have a chance to improve upon their already fairly electric offense. How will the return of Demus Jr. — and again pairing him up with Jarrett — get the most out of an offense that already saw a pretty nice 69% of its yards come through the air last year?
The Terrapins will have to answer that question this offseason if they want to improve upon their 7-6 finish from 2021.
Is Mike Locksley the guy?
Mike Locksley is 15-49 in his career as a head coach. He is 13-23 at Maryland after going 3-9, 2-3 and 7-6 in his first three years.
As shown by his 2021 record, it seems that Maryland is improving under the former Alabama coordinator. Locksley has dramatically improved the Terps’ recruiting efforts, especially when it comes to keeping four and five-star Maryland talent at home. That is until they decide to transfer a year or two after entering the program.
Four seasons is more than enough time to evaluate a coach, so how Locksley’s team performs over this offseason and into the fall will go a long way to deciding if he is their longterm answer.
While not on the hot seat, if in 2022 Maryland goes back to being 3-9 and the bottom of the Big Ten East, the administration will have some tough decisions to make about the future of their coach and their big-picture expectations of the program.
Locksley goes into this offseason needing to prove that he has built something that can be sustained; he needs to prove that the 2021 season is the new normal and not an outlier.
Can new coordinator Brian Williams improve one of the conference’s worst defenses?
Under Locksley, Maryland is has become known as a program that can explode offensively at any moment, but can just as easily lose a shootout due to their poor defense. In 2021, the Terrapins ranked 85th in total defense giving up 404 yards per game, third worst in the B1G, ahead of only Michigan State and Northwestern.
The Terps were even worse in scoring defense allowing 30.7 points per game, “good” for 98th in the country. That total was 13th in the conference, besting only Indiana’s 33.3.
New defensive coordinator Brian Williams will be tasked with fixing a defense that gave up more points than the offense scored in 2021. Any hope for moving up the B1G East ladder will be centered solely on Maryland’s ability to improve dramatically on the defensive side of the ball. Does Williams have enough talent to turn the tide in Season 1?
Time will tell, but the work starts this offseason.
Do the Terps have what it takes to reach a bowl game in 2022?
The most important question this offseason is simply whether or not Maryland has what it takes to reach a bowl game for the second year in a row?
They have their starting quarterback and wide receivers set; they have their new defensive coordinator as well. But like most teams, they will be tasked with finding replacements for players entering the draft and the transfer portal.
After a 7-6 season the groundwork is laid for potential longterm improvement, it’s up to the coaches and players to build upon that foundation and to carry the momentum into next season.