As defensive end Corey Vereen was waived by the New England Patriots with the injury designation Monday, a fellow undrafted rookie, cornerback William Likely, was signed.
The latter is now among the 20 rookie free agents in Foxborough and seven in the secondary.
The combination of 5-foot-7, 180 pounds and a torn ACL had an inevitable hand in why Likely had to wait until now to find an NFL team. But there are additional odds and ends worth looking over when it comes to the arrival by way of the Maryland Terrapins.
Let’s call it a Cover 5.
A Glades Central product
Glades Central High School has produced the likes of Brad Banks, Travis Benjamin, Kelvin Benjamin, Santonio Holmes, Fred Taylor, Clive Walford and Deonte Thompson. But the Raiders of Belle Glade, Fla., have also produced two cornerbacks who’ve gone on to sign with the Patriots as undrafted rookies over the course of the past year.
Florida Atlantic’s Cre’Von LeBlanc – now a member of the Chicago Bears – did so in May of 2016. And in June of 2017, so did Likely, who was former a four-star recruit.
A record-setting returner
The return game is where Likely ignited his initial spark at Maryland. He didn’t dwindle quietly after being named the school’s special-teams player of the year as a freshman, either. Likely finished his four-year tenure having returned 87 kicks for 2,233 yards and two touchdowns while also taking 67 punts back for 875 yards and four touchdowns. He notched single-game Maryland records in both kickoff-return yards – 228 versus Michigan State in 2014 – and punt-return yards – 233 versus Richmond in 2015.
No. 4 now resides second in the Terps’ archives in career kick returns, kick-return yardage, and kick-return touchdowns. As far as punt-return yards and punt-return touchdowns go, he ranks third and fourth in program history, respectively. Likely was voted All-Big Ten returner by the coaches and media as a junior in 2015. His 3,387 all-purpose yards over 43 games rank 11th in program history.
A four-year defensive contributor
Likely appeared in all 13 games back in 2013 and concluded his Maryland tenure having earned 30 starts on the defensive side. At cornerback, he accumulated 229 tackles, with 16.5 for loss, to go with two sacks, seven interceptions returned for 170 yards and two touchdowns, 29 pass deflections, one fumble recovery and five forced fumbles. Six of Likely’s interceptions transpired during the 2014 campaign, when he ran them back for 170 yards and two scores. His single-game best of 14 tackles, meanwhile, transpired against West Virginia this past campaign.
Likely holds single-season Maryland records for interception return yards and interceptions returned for touchdowns altogether. He was a first-team All-Big Ten selection by the coaches and media in 2014 and 2015 for his work in the secondary.
A lingering option out wide
A three-phase contributor at one point for the Terrapins, Likely started at both cornerback and wide receiver in the same game versus Wisconsin in 2015. For his career on offense, Likely rushed for 108 yards on 13 carries and caught six passes for 12 yards.
The bulk of that offensive workload took place during his junior season, Randy Edsall’s last as Maryland head coach. Likely had a single-game high of three catches for nine yards against Michigan State and four rushes for 56 yards versus Wisconsin that year. He handled three offensive touches in limited work under new head coach D.J. Durkin this past season.
A senior season cut short
Likely’s fourth and final season at Maryland ended six games in, when he tore the ACL in his right knee while fielding return against Minnesota on Oct. 15. He registered 32 tackles, three pass breakups, one sack, one forced fumble, and eight kickoffs returned for 219 yards prior to then.
Likely was ranked as the sixth-most versatile player in college football entering 2016 by NFL.com’s Chase Goodbread, and projected as a possible seventh-round pick following his injury. The undersized slash player proceeded to attend the NFL Scouting Combine in February and participated in the bench press while there, posting 15 reps of 225 pounds. Four months later, Likely now finds himself on a Patriots cornerback depth chart that features Malcolm Butler, Stephon Gilmore, Eric Rowe, Cyrus Jones, Jonathan Jones, Justin Coleman, and rookie free agents D.J. Killings, Dwayne Thomas and Kenny Moore.