Most would agree that the quarterback is the most important position on the football field. In college football especially, it can be one of the main differences between the haves, and the have nots. A great quarterback on a team that usually does not produce great QBs, such as Collin Klein at K-State, can attract national attention and raise the profile of the whole football program. We’re hoping Taulia can be that for Maryland this year and beyond, and with the preseason hype he’s receiving combined with the star power he already has by being Tua’s brother, Maryland would receive an unprecedented amount of free publicity from ESPN and the like if 'Lia went berserk this year and led Maryland to a 9-3 or better record.
I was thinking about what I personally would define as a good season from Taulia and thought 60% completion, 3,000 yards, 22 TD’s and 10 INT’s would be a good place to start. In this analysis, I’ll be heavily weighting TD-INT ratio, since TD’s win games and interceptions lose them. Additionally, this method offers simplicity. You would think QB rating would be a better measure, but Danny O'Brien's 2010 season where he went 192/337 (57%), 2,438 yards (7.2 per attempt), 22 TD’s and 8 INT’s resulted in a 134.5 QB rating, while Taulia’s 2020 where he put up 75/122 (61.5%), 1,011 yards (8.3 avg), 7 TD’s and & 7 INTs graded out at 138.5. So you can throw that garbage metric out the window.
I went deep into Maryland’s QB history to compare it to my expectations for Lia, and the numbers were eye searing. Not in a good way. But after looking at some other schools, I was kind of surprised by how college QB’s are on average in general, considering besides MD we often only see the ridiculous stat lines like Joe Burrow throwing for 5,671 yards, 60 TD’s and 6 INT’s, while completing 76.3% of his passes during his Heisman season. Following this analysis, you’ll have an even greater appreciation for how absurd those numbers truly are.
I investigated the past 10 years of QB play for each school in the B1G, only including their leading passer for each given season. I decided to show the average for the main QB stats over the past decade, including completions/attempts, yards, YPA, TD’s, and INT’s. Because I also have a fascination with TD:INT ratios, I established that for a college QB, a 1.5:1 TD/INT was an ok ratio, and a 2:1 or better was a strong ratio. Anything worse, not ideal.
Here’s how B1G QB’s performed over the past decade, listed in order of how much I like/hate each school. [ed. note: solid.] Stats courtesy of ESPN, rounded to whole numbers on TD:INT, completions, yards, and attempts.
I did Rutgers and Maryland first, and after that I kinda wanted to quit because the numbers paint a depressing picture. Rutgers has been the epitome of bad QB play in my mind thanks to Art Sitkowski’s 4:18 gem of a year, but they weren’t bad the first half of the 2010’s. Seeing Maryland’s overall record being worse hurt, and the QB play is pretty much identical outside of TD:INT. No doubt ACL tear upon ACL tear have definitely hurt our numbers, but regardless, Maryland’s QB play has been amongst the worst in the B1G this past decade. I’m irritated with how good PSU’s QB play has been, especially imagining if Franklin had stayed our coach in waiting and made Maryland’s QB’s like that. But I’m really irritated with how good OSU’s QB’s have been. But I think overall, most fan bases will be underwhelmed with their team’s average. Every team has a Maryland or Rutgers QB year at least once or twice a decade, even Ohio State.
I’ve attached my calculations doc with every season for every team I included here. It really makes the Russell Wilson’s of the world stand out that much more when followed by 6 or 7 years of Joel Stave and Alex Hornibrook. Minnesota fans really earned that NFL caliber Tanner Morgan season a couple of years ago, they’ve endured some ROUGH passers outside of that. That single season is probably the only thing holding Minny above Rutgers and Maryland in terms of quarterback stats. TD:INT ratios seem to be a pretty good indicator of team performance, with a few exceptions like Northwestern and Purdue. Five schools averaged a 2:1 ratio or better for their leading passer the past 10 years. Four of them were in the top 5 of the conference in overall record, with the only exception being Iowa at 6th, one win behind Michigan.
How Good Can Maryland Be?
After digging into the data, my revised expectations for Taulia would be to match Braxton Miller’s 2012 production, minus Braxton’s nearly 1,300 rushing yards and 13 rushing touchdowns. That would make Lia 148/258 (58.3%) for 2,039 yards, 8 ypa, with 15 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. That seems like reasonable expected growth for year 2 in the system, if he can remain healthy. 3,000 yards and 22 touchdowns seem too ambitious given the 10 year averages around the B1G, but Braxton’s passing numbers seem like a good baseline that I wouldn’t be surprised if Taulia surpassed in every category.
Overall, there’s no reason Maryland can’t reach Purdue / Michigan / Indiana / Nebraska / Wisconsin levels of passing production on a yearly basis. That puts us in the 5-9ish range passing attack wise in the B1G, which seems like a fair expectation. Taulia will elevate us there, then one of Swann, Sauray, or Howard should entrench us there. Injuries have hurt, but Maryland is still too talented to be last in the conference in the completion %, passing yards, and passing touchdowns categories. Keep in mind, Maryland has signed multiple 5* receivers over this span in Stefon Diggs (2012) and Rakim Jarrett (2020), and had another WR be a first round pick in the NFL draft with DJ Moore. They’ve also had several 1,000 yard rushers in that span; weapons are not the issue. You have to protect the quarterback though. Despite having less talented skill position players than Maryland, Iowa protects their QB as well as anybody and thus ranks towards the top of the conference in every category. Maryland playing 50 quarterbacks per year definitely skews the numbers, but adding in backup numbers across the league still wouldn’t put us in the top 10 in our own conference.
Overall, Maryland’s record over the next decade should look a lot more like Minnesota’s, Nebraska’s, or Northwestern’s from this past decade. Mike Locksley must figure out how to protect the quarterback better in order to elevate our passing attack, and eventually our overall record. The talent is there, both on the team and in the DMV amongst recruits. This year Maryland should have their strongest aerial attack since Danny O’Brien was the ACC freshman of the year in 2010.
Make it happen, Mike.