William Likely, Sophomore, Defensive Back, #4
2013: Defense: 70 tackles (51 solo), 4.5 tackles for loss, 6 pass breakups, 1 interception
Punt Returns: 16 returns, 12.8 yards per return, 1 touchdown
Kickoff Returns: 28 returns, 26 yards per return
247sports composite Ratings: Four stars, 27th-best athlete, 49th-best player in Florida
High School: Glades Central High School (FL)
Hometown: Belle Glade, Florida (aka "Muck City")
High School Highlights:
How'd He Get to College Park?
If it wasn't for Likely's diminutive size, he'd Likely have been a 5-star prospect and headed to one of his the college football powers in his home state -- Florida, Florida State or Miami. Instead, the 5'7" four-star chose to come to College Park over offers from LSU, Wake Forest, Miami, Purdue and Stanford.
He was an accomplished running back and defensive back in the football hotbed they call Muck City, and during his junior season was named the 2011 Florida Gatorade Player of the Year. As a senior he was selected to the Florida Class 5A All-State First Team.
Profiling the entire team
We can talk all we want about how Maryland was able to pull such a highly-regarded player out of Florida, but I'd rather relive the hilarious, possibly false story of how Randy Edsall and Brian Stewart got into a car chase on their recruiting visit. Take it away Randy, via Patrick "D1scourse" Stevens:
"So we're driving up this road and it's leading us toward Pahokee and I said 'Brian, I've been down here. I'm just telling you, where we're going isn't where we want to be going.' We keep driving and he says 'The GPS says it's right up here in a couple miles.' I said 'OK, I'm just telling you, this isn't the right way.'
"All it is is sugar cane fields. There's no lights. It's dark. It's 7, 8 o'clock at night. It's in December. I'm like 'This isn't right.' There's a railroad track there and all the sudden there's this development and there's probably 10 houses. It's like 'OK, here it is.' Take a left. Take a right. There's a church and some nice homes there. You go down and take another left and he says 'It's on this street.'
"It's so dark out you can't even see the numbers on the houses and he's going real, real slow. I said 'Brian, I'm telling you, this is not right, you know?' So he gets on the phone --- true story --- and he says 'Will, is your address this?' 'Yeah.' 'Well, we're here. Which one is your house?'
"We're looking and sitting there for probably five, seven minutes and he said 'It's not there,' so we start to go. We're going to take a left and here comes a pickup truck in this development and they're staring at us like 'What the heck are you guys doing in here?' Then we have a car that comes up behind us and I said 'Brian, I think we ought to get out of here.'
"We go and take a left and the next thing you know, we have both of them on our bumper in this little development as we get out on thus highway. Brian says 'Randy, hold on.' So we come flying out of this development and take a right. The pickup truck tries to rear-end us. The other one tries to go outside of us. He says 'Call 911.'
"I'm calling 911 and I'm getting on the phone and I say 'I'm the head coach of the University of Maryland, I'm out here. I know where we're at. We're getting chased. I didn't do anything. We need a police officer to come out here and make sure nothing happens.' We drive two and a half, three miles with these people chasing us and finally we get to this light and Brian outran them a little bit and get to the light and took a right and they stopped following us.
"That's the first time in 30 years I've ever been chased out of a development and chased down a highway trying to recruit somebody."
This was pretty cool.
Likely's 63 yard punt return for a touchdown at Virginia Tech was the play the Terps on the board for the first time in the biggest and most surprising win of the Edsall-era at Maryland.
Return a punt for a touchdown to beat Ohio State. Intercept the would be go-ahead touchdown pass in the end zone on the last play of the game versus Michigan State. Be an All-B1G cornerback and kick returner.
Due to a rash of injuries, Likely was thrust into a major role early in his collegiate career and although he struggled at times, he showed stretches of brilliance. By the end of the 2013 season, he was one of Maryland's best players in the secondary and a potential game-changer on special teams.
There's no reason to think Likely won't improve next season and be among the best defensive backs in the B1G. He'll always be somewhat limited by his size, but he plays like a player 4 inches taller. He's fast, explosive, fundamentally sound and a joy to watch. Although he probably can't yet be considered a "ball hawk" in terms of interceptions, he always seems to be around the ball and making plays, leading the Terps in deflected passes last season.
Likely's biggest impact might be as a return man. He's a threat to score every time a team is silly enough to kick inbounds. He only had one TD last season, albeit a big on, and I'd put money on him getting a few more this year.
Overall, Likely is a unique, special player and should end up being an integral part of any success Maryland might have in their first B1G season. You've be warned, new conference, and Will Likely feel his tiny wrath.
Our next player was the top target for one of Maryland's quarterbacks in high school.
Maryland1206 joins the fray.
Daniel Hamilton: 2