Written By Sammy Jacobs (@Hoosier_Huddle)
When the Hoosiers and Terrapins kickoff on Saturday at noon in College Park, MD two of the best players at their respected positions will clash. No, it is not Perry Hills versus Nate Sudfeld, but instead it will be Griffin Oakes, a frontrunner for All-Big Ten kicker and Will Likely, Maryland's record setting return man.
Indiana head coach loves his chances with Oakes saying, "He's first. He's No. 1. He's got a chance to be Big Ten kicker of the year" in terms of touchbacks. Oakes is actually tenth in the nation in touchback percentage at 65.63%. All year the Hoosiers special teams have done a tremendous job shutting down the opponent's return game, in large part due to Oakes' big leg. However, Will Likely is the arguably the best returner they have faced all season.
Likely is sixth nationally in kickoff return yards with 724, and is even more dangerous on punt returns as he averages 18.2 yards per return. Wilson quipped that "Well, you want to kick to him in one phase and the other phase not at all. I hope they won't have a lot of punt opportunities."
Likely broke Nile Kinnick's punt return record that stood for 75 years with 233 punt return yards in the season opener against Richmond.
So how will the Hoosiers deal with the threat of Likely returning kicks?
Oakes said that, “If it’s not going to be a touchback, we are definitely emphasizing hang time. If that (kick) can get up there exceeding four seconds then that gives our guys enough time to get down there and make a tackle."
Wilson and his staff echoed those sentiments saying "Coach Inge would tell you he'd prefer him to kick it really, really high and hang time and try to pin them inside the 25 because he'd like to start on the 18 if you can cover it good. We're not trying to be cute on that play. We tell him to kick it out when he can."
If the Hoosiers do get cute, they could find themselves the victim of several big plays from Likely.