Will Likely muffed a punt during a special teams drill Friday morning, causing Maryland football Coach Randy Edsall to approach the sophomore cornerback and lend some advice. He put his arm around Likely after the instruction and tapped him on the helmet, a show of confidence for one of the roster’s most skilled players.
Likely is still young, a year removed from a freshman campaign in which he emerged as mainstay at corner and as a kick return specialist. But he expects himself to practice like a veteran, and he was very direct when he met with reporters after Friday’s practice.
“I think I had an average practice. I [didn't] do things that I like to do, so I can definitely get better,” Likely said. “I’m just trying to fine-tune, like I said, the simple things.”
Likely led the team with seven passes defended last season and was fifth overall with 70 total tackles. He established himself as a home run threat as a kick returner, averaging 12.8 yards per punt return and 26 yards per kick return. He was also durable, playing in all 13 games when so many of his teammates were cut down with injuries.
He is projected to continue returning kicks in addition to his corner duties, although wide receivers Stefon Diggs, Taivon Jacobs and Jacquille Veii have also been getting looks as potential specialists.
Although he was disappointed with his performance Friday, the 5-foot-7, 175-pound Likely still made a number of plays. He blitzed well on the weak side. He was beat by Levern Jacobs on a slant pattern during 11-on-11 drills, but responded by breaking up a pass while covering Jacobs on a long pass on the next play.
And he was vocal in his support for fellow corner Alvin Hill, who had a strong practice. Hill, a junior, had an interception for a second consecutive day and broke up a pass on another long pass play. Likely entered camp listed as a starter alongside Hill, and Randy Edsall said Friday that Jeremiah Johnson will also be in the fold to start alongside those two.
“Alvin is a sleeper. He’s been on point, people just didn’t notice him,” Likely said. “All the DB’s have a good communication and a good relationship.”