NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Maryland football coach Michael Locksley views bowl games as the beginning of the next season rather than the end of the current campaign.
That’s why in the Music City Bowl on Saturday, Locksley sought to get a clearer picture for what his starting quarterback next season could be. Taulia Tagovailoa, a four-year starter and the most accomplished signal caller in program history, exhausted his eligibility and left an opening at the position.
Former NC State quarterback MJ Morris announced his transfer to Maryland earlier this month. Morris was a former four-star recruit and went 4-2 as a starter with the Wolfpack, potentially giving Locksley an answer to the uncertainty before 2023 ended. But Billy Edwards Jr. and Cam Edge, with flashes in spurts Saturday, made it clear there will be a quarterback battle next season.
“It’s a great problem to have,” Locksley said. “I’m really happy with the way the quarterbacks performed, both of those guys.”
The Terps’ coaching staff didn’t ease either quarterback in as Maryland’s offensive plan called for early aggression. Both Edwards and Edge fired deep to Kaden Prather — Edwards’ pass fell incomplete, while Edge’s throw hit Prather in stride for a 57-yard completion that set up the Terps’ third touchdown of the first quarter.
Edwards’ next throw was a lot easier — a screen to Roman Hemby that he took for 61 yards. The redshirt sophomore showed inconsistencies throughout the game as a passer, completing just 30 percent of his attempts for 126 yards and one touchdown. But Edwards didn’t record a turnover and played smartly when he avoided a sack with a throw away to allow a Jack Howes field goal before the end of the first half.
“There’s just so much good teaching in [the game],” Locksley said. “To be able to execute and for him to understand … ‘Hey you can take a shot down the field but if it’s not there throw it out of bounds.’ Just the learning piece of that is what really excites me.”
Edwards also displayed his dual-threat ability as a physical runner. The quarterback’s 50 rushing yards was more than Tagovailoa tallied in any game in the regular season, and his two-yard touchdown rush just two minutes in kickstarted the Terps’ scoring.
“I’ll be honest, I don’t think I played very well,” Edwards said. “I think we left a lot of meat on the bone and there’s lots to improve from, but I’m not gonna take away from that, I’m gonna enjoy this one.”
Edge showed why he was a four-star prospect. The redshirt freshman displayed his arm strength with his deep strike to Prather, and capped off that drive with his first collegiate touchdown.
Edge’s lone mistake — a third quarter interception — was the result of his intended target falling down after the pass was thrown.
“I think they both played well, and I think they both offer a lot,” Jeshaun Jones said. “I think that quarterback competition will be a good one.”
Edwards and Edge have both served as reserves for the last two seasons. Locksley has seen the pair improve in practice, and Saturday allowed the coach to see how they fared in live action, an he deemed “instrumental” to the quarterbacks’ development.
Neither signal caller was dominant against Auburn. But both Edwards and Edge displayed flashes of why they can be the Terps’ starter in 2024.