Glades Central football player Will Likely looking for national notice
Saturday, July 07, 2012
by Matt Porter
College football recruiting analysts often repeat themselves when discussing Glades Central senior Will Likely.
They begin with the same caveat: if he were taller, he'd be one of the best players in the 2013 signing class.
They end with the same proclamation: He's short. Probably too short to have an NFL career.
"I just laugh at it," Likely said. "Because it doesn't matter about size. If you're good, you're good. That's what I came to show."
Likely is one of 150-plus high school football stars at Nike headquarters in Beaverton, Ore., this weekend for The Opening (8 p.m., ESPNU), an NFL Combine-style camp for the top recruits in the nation. In its fourth year, the camp has become one of the top summer events for high school recruits.
Everyone who's there has something to prove, even highly decorated Glades Day running back Kelvin Taylor, the other Palm Beach County player at the camp. Perhaps no one has more to prove than Likely, however.
As a 5-foot-7, 171-pound cornerback, Likely needs to show he won't be out of place covering larger college receivers. "In the last seven to 10 years, you've seen that big wide receiver who can play jump balls and create mismatches in the end zone," ESPN recruiting analyst Tom Luginbill said. "You used to have 5-8 guys (playing corner). A 5-11 guy was considered a huge corner."
There were 37 cornerbacks picked in the 2012 NFL Draft, more than any position except offensive or defensive linemen. Of the five corners chosen in the first round, all were 6-foot or taller, according to NFL.com. With another caveat -- heights are often rounded up a half-inch -- no corner taken was listed shorter than 5-10.
In 2002, two of the four first-round corners were under 6-0. Of the 42 corners drafted that year, five were listed shorter than 5-10.
If a 5-7 corner gets drafted today, "it's the late rounds and somebody's taking a chance on him," Luginbill said. "It's just tough from a run-support standpoint and a red-zone standpoint. His ceiling will always be a little bit limited."
As a junior, Likely had a team-high seven interceptions for a defense that held opponents under 43 passing yards per game. He also averaged 34.2 yards on punt and kick returns. Used equally as a rusher and pass receiver, he had 1,455 total yards of offense and 17 touchdowns.
He averaged just shy of 10 points per game -- by himself -- for Glades Central, which went 12-1 and reached the Class 5A regional finals.
More than 20 BCS programs have made verbal offers to Likely, including Alabama, Florida, Florida State and Miami. Georgia and Stanford are the most recent to offer. He said he won't narrow down his list for months.
Taylor, who has verbally committed to Florida, is already ESPN's top-rated running back and the state's all-time rushing leader. Since he's there to be evaluated, Luginbill said he'd like to see more pass-catching ability and breakaway speed out of the Glades Day star.
"I don't know if he's really truly what I'd call a home-run threat," Luginbill said. "Taylor's the type of guy with a blend of power, speed and elusiveness. I don't know if he has what I'd call 'Bayou Speed.' "
Luginbill did compliment Taylor, comparing him to Baltimore Ravens All-Pro Ray Rice.
"He has the ability to play in any type of scheme," Luginbill said of the 5-11, 216-pound Taylor. "He can get to the outside and turn the corner. He can run between the tackles. He's durable. He can turn a 5-yard play into a 40-yard play. He's the type of player you can model an offense around."
Likely doesn't have that level of respect. He tried to earn some of it this weekend.
"I just want to compete and let it come naturally," he said.