Sometimes Will Likely jokes with Maryland offensive coordinator Mike Locksley about his offensive potential.
"Put me in the slot, Coach," the cornerback will tell Locksley. "Put me in the slot."
And while the chances of the shutdown corner and elusive punt returner entering a game on offense are highly unlikely due to a number of factors, including injury risk and work load, Locksley said Likely is viewed as an offensive contributor thanks to his punt returns. Likely broke a 76-year-old Big Ten Conference record for single-game punt return yardage with 233 yards, and he set the Terps offense up with a short field.
In the 50-21 victory over Richmond, Maryland's average starting field position was its own 46-yard line, giving the Terps plenty of opportunities to score.
"He's just so valuable to our team with the amount of reps he plays on defense and then special teams," Locksley said. "As we say, by the field position he gives us, he is an offensive weapon, so he helps the offense and he provided us with great field position last week and for an offense… wherever our average drive start was, you should score 50 or more points."
On Tuesday, coach Randy Edsall extolled Likely's value and called him a "very extraordinary returner." Edsall said past returners he's worked with have had some of the components needed to succeed, but Likely has everything.
"Of all the guys that I've been around, he probably possesses all the qualities of an outstanding return man," Edsall said.
"I mean, he's probably right," Likely said after hearing of Edsall's praise. "I work hard every day trying to get better. I try to get other guys better around me and prep for the game, so coming from home, it's probably a good thing."
Likely's value isn't lost on the Terps' offense. Maryland's longest scoring drive was a 12-play, 63-yard march that ended in a Brad Craddock field goal in the second quarter. That drive began at the Maryland 25-yard line, after a Richmond kickoff, and was fair caught by tight end P.J. Gallo after Likely already had two lengthy kickoff returns earlier in the game.
Maryland's five touchdown drives averaged 49.2 yards, a short field for quarterback Perry Hills and the offense. Last season, Maryland had 10 touchdown drives of 49 yards or less.
"Will, he's an athlete," Hills said. "He really is. He's really shifty and hard to bring down. You would think that because he's a smaller guy, oh, he's just going to get tackled. He breaks tackles and makes plays. It's really really nice having him out there, being able to get us good field position so we're closer to drive the ball down into the end zone."
Even if the chances of teams kicking to Likely eight more times the rest of the season seem slim after his performance to open 2015, any chance he gets his hands on the ball on special teams this week against Bowling Green could prove significant. The Falcons' up-tempo, spread offense gashed Tennessee in a 59-30 loss last weekend.
So the Terps realize they could end up in a shootout this weekend and might have to put up points.
And the closer they start to midfield, the better. Maryland knows the chances of at least putting some points on the board, especially with Craddock another weapon on special teams, increase the closer a drive starts to midfield and beyond.
Though he might not get the chance to flash any of his shifty moves on the offensive side of the ball, the Terps realize the impact Likely can have on offense.
"He's playing defense, special teams," Hills said. "He's doing a lot right now. But he's a playmaker, so it would be nice to have another playmaker on offense. But I'm not sure that's going to happen."