Maryland defensive back Will Likely, who established himself as one of the country’s most electrifying players in 2015, announced Friday that he will return for his senior season instead of declaring early for the NFL draft.
Likely’s decision, announced via Twitter on Friday afternoon, gives first-year Maryland Coach DJ Durkin and his new staff a veteran play-maker who will serve as the centerpiece on defense and special teams in 2016.
“I’m excited to announce that I will be returning to Maryland for my senior season,” said Likely said on Twitter and in a statement released by the school. “First and foremost, I’m looking forward to earning my degree. Secondly, I want to finish off what I started with my teammates. We believe in the direction of this program and know that the future is bright.”
Likely gained national accolades as a return specialist as a junior, named a first-team all-American by the Football Writers Association of America and second-team all-Americanby USA Today after leading the country with 1,197 total kick return yards. He also won the inaugural Rodgers-Dwight Big Ten return specialist of the year award after leading the league in punt return average (17.7 yards) and breaking a 76-year old Big Ten record with 233 punt return yards against Richmond in the season opener.
Likely was one of the lone bright lights during a 3-9 season for Maryland, which introduced Durkin as its new head coach in early December. The former Michigan defensive coordinator will inherit a versatile threat in Likely, who had three returns for touchdowns this season. He also started 11 games at defensive back, where he registered 44 tackles and 11 pass breakups, and also made appearances as a slot receiver on offense late in the season.
Likely’s decision to hold off on the NFL draft is also significant considering the losses Maryland’s defense has already accrued this offseason. Junior defense end Yannick Ngakoue and redshirt junior defensive tackle Quinton Jefferson both declared for the NFL draft.