The Notre Dame passing game took a back seat in 2018, largely due to the presence of Josh Adams at running back and the need to integrate first year starting quarterback Brandon Wimbush into the lineup. With the 2018 Notre Dame football schedule on the verge of getting underway, the receiving corps could be the focus of more attention because of the burgeoning potential of Miles Boykin.
A year ago, that idea would have been seen as absurd, with Boykin’s body of work as a member of the Irish eliciting a collective yawn. That’s because he had played in just six games as a sophomore and had six catches for 81 yards. Even his regular season performance last year amounted to just nine catches for 151 yards.
The Catch Shifts the Conversation
That all changed on New Year’s Day, when Boykin caught three passes for 102 yards and one touchdown in the Citrus Bowl. That one score came on a 55-yard toss from Ian Book with just 1:28 remaining to give Notre Dame a dramatic 21-17 win over the LSU Tigers. The victory helped the Irish stop a late-season slide and finish the year with a 10-3 record.
What made the grab so dramatic was only partly due to the circumstances of the game being on the line. The other component dealt with the fact that Boykin managed to grab it with one hand and then get past two LSU defenders enroute to the end zone. The impact of that catch not only laid the groundwork for a positive start to 2018 for the team, but also put Boykin’s image with respect to the coaching staff in a new light.
The Outlook for 2018
Coupled with the departure of Equanimeous St. Brown, the senior now has the opportunity to become an integral part of the receiving corps. One indication of Boykin’s new-found stature could be seen with the strong performance he delivered during the school’s spring practices. Boykin left the spring as the clear #1 wide receiver for Notre Dame.
Efforts like that show Boykin sppears to be finally ready to seize the opportunity he’s had since he arrived in South Bend. Part of his previous lack of production was the aforementioned emphasis on the running game.
Boykin has similar physical attributes to Brown, with a 6-foot-4, 225-pound frame, yet he also brings along other assets. The main two are excellent speed and outstanding leaping ability, which obviously work well in receiving situations.
The fact that 6-4 Chase Claypool is likely to be the other starting wide receiver for the Irish will offer Wimbush, Book or possibly Phil Jurkovec plenty of chances to simply put specific throws up for grabs.
The only fly in the ointment of this particular scenario is that there are plenty of other up-and-coming talents waiting for their chance in the Notre Dame offense. Any breakthrough by one of those players could shift the focus away from Boykin should he not continue his upward progression.
It appears as though that scenario is remote at this point though. Boykin is the only wide receiver on the roster right now who looks cemented in their role. Junior Chase Claypool still needs to improve upon his consistency and the slot position is still up for grabs between Chris Finke and Michael Young. Boykin though, is looking like the alpha dog of the group more and more every day.
Peering Into the Future
The lure of the NFL as a post-college destination should offer Boykin the requisite motivation to deliver this season. He knows that a return to the past two regular seasons in 2018 would end up relegating his Citrus Bowl performance to the fluke category. That could likely mean he’d end up going undrafted – even with another year of eligibility in 2019. Notre Dame signed a class of five wide receivers in 2018 who will be eager to pass anyone on the depth chart who doesn’t produce in 2018.
After all, St. Brown’s production saw a noticeable decline last year following a strong 2016 and he ended up dropping to being a sixth round selection of Green Bay. While Boykin doesn’t figure to enter the stratosphere of past greats like Will Fuller or Michael Floyd this season, he can still find a way to dramatically improve his career trajectory.
By building on his Citrus Bowl performance and becoming the #1 wide receiver he looks ready to be though, he might find a way into being chosen during the second night of the NFL draft. The Irish and their rabid fan base will be the immediate beneficiaries if that happens once the Notre Dame football schedule begins on Sept. 1.
Before the NFL is even a thought for Boykin though, he has two seasons of eligibility remaining to build his resume. Now, a breakout in 2018 and it shouldn’t surprise anyone to see him leave for the NFL with his degree in hand. The main stumbling block there could be getting enough consistency from the quarterback position to even have that be a possibility.
A year ago at this time Miles Boykin was an afterthought on the Notre Dame roster. Fast forward a year and we are now peering into his NFL future which looks quite bright. The NFL loves big bodied, fast receivers like Boykin. Let that serve as a reminder for anyone who wants to write off a sophomore or junior who hasn’t grabbed hold of a starting position right out of the gates of their career.