NFL Draft analyst John Vogel previews the Maryland Terrapins ahead of the 2021 season. Predictions, pre-season grades, and more:
The Maryland Terrapins saw the start of the Mike Locksley era in 2020, a season drastically hampered by the Covid-19 pandemic. The altered offseason that saw the Big Ten season initially canceled and then rescheduled certainly impacted Locksley’s first season, marred with games canceled due to the virus. A modest 2-3 season doesn’t look astonishing on paper. Don’t be fooled – this team is loaded with talent.
Locksley brought many of his Alabama ties with him to Maryland, such as former Alabama quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa. Isaiah Jacobs, the younger brother of former Alabama running back Josh Jacobs, is rostered on the team. Since his arrival, the focus has been speed and physicality. Maryland was a competitive and physical team last season and will be even more so in 2021.
The Maryland schedule could have been worse for 2021. They open the season against West Virginia (Sept. 4th), a good opening challenge. The most challenging in-conference opponents will be a visit to Ohio State (Oct. 9th) and their home games against Indiana (Oct. 30th), Penn State (Nov. 6th), and Michigan (Nov 20th).
Maryland Terrapins Quarterback competition
Last season, Maryland’s starting quarterback was Taulia Tagovailoa, the brother of Miami Dolphins quarterback, Tua. He struggled in a few starts but flashed the ability to be an effective college-level quarterback. Before you ask, no, he’s not as good as Tua. Regardless, he shows potential, and that’s sometimes not enough to go on in the modern football age.
Maryland landed VMI transfer quarterback Reece Udinski, a graduate transfer who couldn’t continue his graduate studies in Virginia. He was recruited heavily by power five schools, despite tearing his ACL in March. Udinski is much more processed as a passer than Tagovailoa but doesn’t have the arm strength.
Last season, the offense was really centered around seventh-round pick running back Jake Funk. The Maryland Terrapins under Mike Lockesly ran a more RPO-centered scheme, running slants and other inbreaking routes over the top. If Maryland intends to rerun that style of offense this season, Tagovailoa is their man. If they want to incorporate more west coast style schemes, Udinski will be their guy.
QB Taulia Tagovailoa (Jr)
#3 | HT: 5’11” | WT: 200 | High School: Thompson (Ewa Beach, HI)
Taulia Tagovailoa is an intriguing NFL prospect from many different standpoints. His famous older brother, Tua, was selected 5th overall by the Miami Dolphins in the 2020 NFL Draft. After following his brother to Alabama, it became clear that he wouldn’t beat Mac Jones for the starting job in Tuscaloosa. His father, Galu, pulled Taulia out of Alabama and followed the former Alabama offensive coordinator, Locksley, to Maryland.
Taulia has arm talent. During his time at Maryland, he’s flashed it, showing the ability to throw through tight windows and has a strong arm with great velocity. He’s also an explosive runner. Not only can he extend plays outside of the pocket, but he can also gash defenses downfield.
The biggest concern with his game right now is consistency. Tagovailoa makes bad decisions at times, trying to force the football through windows that don’t exist. On top of that, his deep ball accuracy leaves a lot to be desired. He tends to overthrow his intended receivers. His size will factor into his evaluation and leave questions about his ability to hold up at the NFL level. Regardless, if he wins the starting job this season, it will say a lot about his competitiveness and toughness.
Pre-Season Grade: 5th/7th Round
QB Reece Udinski (Sr)
#? | HT: 6’3″ | WT: 205 | High School: North Penn (North Wales, PA)
Reece Udinski is a transfer into the Maryland program from VMI following a torn ACL in March. He is currently working at a rehab facility in Alabama that helps athletes recover from these injuries faster and plans to be ready in the fall to compete for the starting position.
Udinski is a refined passer from a mechanical standpoint. His footwork is sublime, oftentimes opening passing lanes with his ability to fake quickly one direction and then throw another. He’s on time with timing concepts and can get the ball out very quickly. His ability to throw while on the move is exemplary too.
The holdbacks? While Udinski is athletic, he won’t be a useful runner down the field like Tagovailoa can be. He doesn’t have great arm strength either, relying on his timing and touch to get the ball where it has to. It will make the quarterback competition interesting this fall – assuming that Udinski is ready to go from his injury.
Pre-Season Grade: 7th /PDFA
X WR Dontay Demus (Jr)
#7 | HT: 6’2″ | WT: 215 | High School: Friendship Collegiate (Washington, DC)
The Maryland Terrapins have been blessed to have Dontay Demus on their offense, offering his big play-ability. He’s been a consistent weapon, too, entering the season with 19 consecutive games with a catch. In the last four games he’s played, he’s scored a touchdown too. His large frame allows him to dominate on in-breaking routes. He’s very athletic and strong, too, allowing him to be effective after the catch.
If there is reason to be concerned with Demus, it would be his lack of a route tree. Maryland hasn’t run a system that allows its receivers to run a lot of different routes. There’s an upside factor in that, but it’s hard to see if Demus will ever realize the upside.
Pre-Season Grade: 4th/5th Round.
Z WR Brian Cobbs (Jr)
#15 | HT: 6’1″ | WT: 215 | High School: Hayfield (Alexandria, VA)
Brian Cobbs is an interesting prospect. His usage in the Maryland offense was mostly out of the slot, but his size projects him better as a Z, where he was used as well. There is some versatility there for Cobbs. His father, Robert, played football in college, too, playing at Penn State.
Cobbs is an average athlete and doesn’t show the ability to go vertically for catches. He doesn’t work well through contact either. His playability will depend on being schemed in space and making things happen after the catch. The wide receiver position is devaluing as a whole in the league because of the amount of talent, and Cobbs looks like one of those guys who doesn’t have an elite-defining trait and will fight for a camp spot.
Pre-Season Grade: PDFA.
OG Johari Branch (Jr)
#65 | HT: 6’2″ | WT: 320 | High School: Phillips Academy (Chicago, IL)
Johari Branch played in his first season with Maryland last year, transferring in from Independence CC, and started all five games. Inexperience is what will hurt his prospectus the most, as he moves well for his size. Most of the time, when Branch is on tape, he’s a lockdown blocker. He hustles down the field as well to help make plays.
While he has a good plant, Branch struggled against some of the bigger, more elite interior defenders in the Big Ten. I think he has the upside to really grow into the position, as his size is ideal. Johari Branch will have to grow into the role, though, and prove that he has the strength and quickness to hold up in the NFL. It would take a big season for him to go pro in 2022.
Pre-Season Draft Grade: PDFA.
Maryland Terrapins defense led by RUSH EDGE Lawtez Rogers (R-Jr)
#95 | HT: 6’3″ | WT: 270 | High School: Eleanor Roosevelt (Landover, MD)
Lawtez Rogers is one of the more interesting prospects in this class. He’s flashed solid ability at times to be explosive off of the edge and good handwork. His use in the scheme was both an upright edge and a defensive end from a three-point stance. He’s quick and explosive when the ball carrier is in his sights.
Consistency is key when drafting prospects. Rogers isn’t the most consistent player on the field. He takes plays off and disappears at times, making no impact. He’s quick, but not fast. He won’t chase escaping quarterbacks to the perimeter. While he has intriguing size and tools, he’ll have a lot to answer for in pre-draft interviews.
Pre-Season Draft Grade: 7th/PDFA.
DT Sam Okuayinonu (Sr)
#97 | HT: 6’0″ | WT: 280 | High School: Lowell (Lowell, MA)
Sam Okuayinonu is arguably the best defender on the Maryland Terrapins roster this season. First off – he’s very explosive coming off of the line of scrimmage. He was utilized as a three-tech and a five-tech and performed well from both places. His handwork is impressive and shows a powerful inside arm while using his buff lower body to generate an impressive bull rush and condense the pocket.
The potential problems that Okuayinonu has in his prospectus are, first off, his size. It’s hard to find a roster spot for someone at his size inside if you don’t have the skillset of Aaron Donald. Second off, he won’t win a finesse battle with handwork. He relies instead on winning at the snap and getting his stiff arm in the chest of the blocker. These are good traits, but he looks like he’ll be a rotational piece somewhere as they hope he develops his hand usage.
Pre-Season Draft Grade: 4th/5th Round.
S Nick Cross (So)
#3 | HT: 6’0″ | WT: 205 | High School: DeMatha Catholic (Bowie, MD)
Nick Cross likely doesn’t declare in the 2021 cycle, but we cannot ignore his impact on the field. He’s a junior student, but due to the Covid season, he is technically considered a sophomore. He will be eligible for the 2022 NFL Draft. That being said, I wouldn’t really consider him a threat to come out.
Cross stands out on film as a guy who’s consistently in the spot to make a big play. He takes good pursuit angles and is (for the most part) an excellent tackler. All of this being said, he’s still young and inexperienced, and it showed in the mistakes that he made. Sometimes, Cross overpursued a play and missed the tackle. He’s also an average athlete at this point. He has time to grow, so I’d expect at least one more year of college before Cross comes out like a pro.
Pre-Season Draft Grade: 6th/PDFA.
ROVER Jordan Mosley (Jr)
#18 | HT: 6’0″ | WT: 205 | High School: Haverford (Havertown, MD)
The Maryland Terrapins love putting Jordan Mosley one-on-one with tight ends and running backs because of his space defending ability. Mosley has good size and is an excellent tackler – especially when in space. He was the safety that opposing teams targetted because of the size advantages that they had against him. He held up too, for the most part, showing good instincts and solid tackling ability.
Mosley was more oftentimes than not utilized closer to the line of scrimmage as a nickel defender. He played a lot of off-man coverage and showed the ability to stick with people. The thing that will hold him back is his lack of straight-line speed. He was often the targetted defender in man coverage with sweep action movement to get solid several yards between that and his passiveness at times when not in space. It’ll drop him a little bit in a deep class.
Pre-Season Draft Grade: 6th/PDFA.