Miles Boykin to NFL: Notre Dame Forced to Reshape Receiving Corps

The biggest glaring differences between Notre Dame and Clemson a week ago wasn’t in the trenches – it was on the edges where Clemson used a variety of young, fast wide receivers to exploit the Irish secondary once Julian Love was injured.  Notre Dame countered with their towering duo of Miles Boykin and Chase Claypool.  Clemson’s speed at the position was beyond noticeable.  On Sunday, Notre Dame was forced to reshape their wide receiving corps for 2019 when Miles Boykin announced he would not be using a 5th year and instead declare for the 2019 NFL Draft.

A year ago at this time, most of the college football world had just learned who Miles Boykin was after his theatrical game winning touchdown against LSU in the Citrus Bowl.  Hell, a good portion of the Notre Dame fan base was probably just learning who he was.  Since then, Boykin transformed himself into Notre Dame’s go to wide receiver. He hauled in 52 passes for 859 with 8 touchdowns.   And that was with a slow start to the season.

Even with being Notre Dame’s leading receiving this year, on the surface, the decision by Boykin to leave for the NFL is a bit curious given he enters the draft without a 1,000 yard or 10 TD season and with some holes remaining in his game.  Much like Darius Walker back in 2007 though, there is one thing that will hold back Boykin in the draft regardless of when he left and it’s something that he won’t be able to improve on much with another year – his speed.

Boykin showed this year that he can use his body and be a big, massive target.  Even in the Cotton Bowl, he was the one Notre Dame wide receiver who had success against the Clemson defense.  He could have had an even bigger game too if Book had hit him in a couple instances when he was wide open or just trusted him more with more jump balls.

For Notre Dame, the Irish staff was going to be faced with some difficult decisions this off-season at wide receiver already.  Specifically, how could get more speed and athleticism at the position in 2019 when it looked like all three starting receivers were expected back.  Well, Boykin just forced Notre Dame’s hand.

Offensive Coordinator Chip Long and Wide Receivers Coach DelVaughn Alexander will not be short on options if they are just looking to replace Boykin, but the most obvious answer might be already in the starting lineup.  It felt throughout much of the year like Boykin and Chase Claypool were two similar receivers playing at the same time.  Both are massive receivers who aren’t stretching many defenses even if they can occasionally get open downfield.  Claypool is believed to have requested a NFL evaluation as well though.

Assuming Claypool returns and moves over to Boykin’s spot, that still leaves an opening in the lineup though.

Here are the main candidates who could fill out the receiving corps.

  • Kevin Austin – There isn’t a receiver on the roster who has the look of a future #1 wide receiver more than Austin.  He took some time to adjust to college this year, but with a full off-season to focus, he could be unleashed next fall.
  • Michael Young – I thought we would see a breakout from Young this year and it didn’t happen.  He would give Notre Dame much needed speed on the outside.
  • Braden Lenzy – Speaking of speed, no receiver might be as fast as Lenzy.  If he is ready for a starting role, he would give Notre Dame a massive upgrade in the speed department at the position.
  • Lawrence Keys – Like Lenzy, Keys has speed to burn and reportedly he was ahead of Lenzy throughout the year and throughout bowl prep.
  • Javon McKinley – The senior to be is still on the roster but it’s safe to wonder if his window has passed at Notre Dame.  He arrived as an accomplished player in a tough division in California, but has yet to make any impact.
  • Joe Wilkins – The converted cornerback was a surprise in camp by moving ahead of some of the other freshmen and even saw the field this year while maintaining a redshirt.
  • Micah Jones – The most similar to Boykin in terms of profile, Jones used a redshirt this year.  Like Boykin, he will likely take a little more time before he is ready for a major role.

Notre Dame clearly has some great options here to replace Boykin and most will add a dose of more speed onto the field for the Irish.  If Austin has a good off-season, he could be ready to become Notre Dame’s #1 wide receiver this fall.  He has all of the tools and could be a game changer for this offense.  Between Young, Keys, Lenzy, and Wilkins; they all would infuse more speed on the field as well.  Even if they don’t win a starting role, Notre Dame has to find a way to get at least a couple of them more involved next fall.

What Notre Dame will have a hard time replacing is Boykin’s ball skills in the endzone.  No one else on the Irish roster has shown they have the same kind of ability to win one on one battles for contested balls in the endzone like Boykin to date.  With the talent Notre Dame has at tight end with the Cole Kmet and sophomore to be Tommy Tremble, the Irish have some candidates there as well.  Claypool has the height, but hasn’t shown he can win those battles with consistency like Boykin to date.  That is something that he could focus on this off-season.

For Boykin, his NFL prospects are still a bit murky.  His NFL evaluation came back better than expected reportedly so it will be interesting to see where he gets picked.  A year ago Equanimeous St. Brown left Notre Dame early and didn’t get picked until the 6th round.  His resume had better credentials and his measurables at the combine were great.  Boykin won’t have either of that going for him, but he will give some NFL team, a tight end’s body with wide receiver skills.

Notre Dame is now two for four in NFL decisions with Boykin joining Julian Love in leaving Notre Dame with eligibility remainingDefensive ends Julian Okwara and Khalid Kareem on the other hand both announced they will be returning.  The fifth player believed to have asked for a NFL evaluation is Claypool but to date there have been no indications he plans on leaving.  Most felt Boykin would return too though so we’ll have to wait and see there.

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  1. Speed has been recruited successfully, at skilled positions especially. Bear Bryant was the first (I know of) to use speed everywhere…linemen even. Many were “burners” relative to the average guys at those positions. That’s the biggest way he changed this game forever, IMO.
    Our “O” line can duplicate great speed (footspeed, typically) with great timing as a unit and physical strength – but they are not there yet. But they could be by August IMO.

    BGC ’77 ’82

  2. one small consolation Notredames defense was much better against Clemson than Alabamas least we sacked and got pressure on Lawrence.

      1. Maybe not as bad team wise, but glaringly more than just a notch below the elite when it comes to speed at wr and rb positions and pro style Qb. Not sure ND will ever get all that in one season.

    1. Alabama may have just saved ND’s playoff hopes for next year with a 12-0 run, although very unlikely we’ll do that again.

      1. Yeah agree for sure tough gauntlet to run thru next season. Michigan, Stanford, USC, and Georgia will all be tough to deal with and 3 of 4 are on the road. I just don’t see much improvement from the offense happening next year maybe even a step back. 2012 and 2018 season were great years for Notre Dame Football but due to a lack of talent and depth not likely to happen again next year. 10-2 would be very respectable next season.

  3. Watching Clemson and Alabama shows me Notredame is a long way from this level of football. Defensively I think Notredame is comparable but offensively not even close. These 2 teams have far more speed playmakers explosive playmakers far superior quarterbacks.Far superior lines.etc.

  4. ND needs more speed on the outside. A receiver who can run the skinny post, outrun the defender, catch the ball in stride
    and take it to the house. Boykin was not that guy. Not sure Claypool is. Someone like Will Fuller. Or Marquise Brown from Okl.
    Dude is small but has quickness and elusiveness. Just needs a QB who can throw the deep ball and let him go get it
    He doesn’t need to out jump anyone. Speed and quickness are premium for today’s college receivers

  5. Interesting Micah Jones got praise from Kelly for his scout team work. No mention of that. Worked against Love and Pride all year, playing the other teams Best Big WR (e.g. Higgins). Probably the strongest and tallest and biggest (weight) WR behind Claypool only on
    the WR room. But seems to have been at the bottom of the list from the beginning. Boykins was not the fastest kid either. At some point you will need big WR’s to work the boundary’s and end zones. If you have not noticed that are only a hand full of WR in the country with that size that can get into ND.

  6. Claypool was once again underutilized this year. He definitely has better ball skills than Boykin does. Go back and look at some of Claypool’s catches down the sidelines on contested jump balls throughout his career. It is pretty impressive. Book and the offense made Boykin the go to receiver but I really felt like Claypool wasn’t thrown to enough all season long. Their stats were pretty similar this year only that Boykin had more TDs but none of the sites showed target stats on each player. It felt like Boykin was thrown to way more than Claypool was though.

    The point is that Boykin going to the NFL now opens up Claypool to be your true #1 which hopefully, similar to Boykin in his ND career, will finally be used a lot in his last season at ND. Claypool has the highest ceiling of all our receivers we’ve seen that are coming back. One thing that cannot go underestimated is the yards after catch (YAC) stats that Claypool brings to the table (could not find these stats either). I rarely see one defender take him down in space. Hopefully he decides to come back because we will need him.

    1. Re: being underutilized, Boykin was never given a chance to be the go-to guy until the end of his Junior year. Dexter Williams remained virtually unused until four games into his Senior year; both became O’ keys. Will CA highly rated recruit Javon McKinley be that guy as he enters his Senior year, once a highly rated recruit but still an unknown player who arrived with much hyped potential. Will it never materialize, or is he finally going to emerge as one of the receivers now that one of them is gone? Someone leaves and the opportunity appears for the next guy in, and like with Boykin and Williams, Mc Kinley could be that guy if given the chance. I’m not at practice, but I suspect Frank is right and his chance has passed him by. We might never know what he’s capable of until he takes his fifth year elsewhere.

      1. Some seem to be high on McKinley but I literally don’t even remember him playing. Are you basing this off of his high school ratings coming out or what? With Williams, we could at least see in the limited playing time the kid was super dynamic but I honestly don’t recall anything McKinley has done if he has played. I hope you’re right though.

        The whole point I think we are trying to make is Kelly has a history of underutilizing some really good players for reasons we may never know. Williams was the biggest joke in the Kelly era. If he was eligible, he should have been playing no matter what.

    2. He is overrated at this point probably due to taking up the game late and yet being a great athlete. He has not demonstrated consistent good hands but is improving. I think he will be a late bloomer but Boykin was way better in consistently catching the ball. Learning how to get open has to be one thing he practices too.

      1. Rayjay,

        Overrated really? I’d say he’s had a decent career so far but not to his full potential. I’d hardly say overrated. Alize Mack was overrated for comparison.

        I don’t recall Claypool dropping many passes that hit him right in the hands other than that first one against Clemson. I’m sure he’s had a couple drops but it wasn’t anything like Eq St. Brown or Will Fuller. I think it’s a lack of throwing to him enough. He catches more contested passes than any of our receivers. Boykin was good at back shoulder catches that were thrown perfectly but he couldn’t adjust to balls very well that were thrown where he had to come back or change direction to make a catch. This is where Claypool is better. I think he will have a breakout senior season.

      2. CLAYPOOL lacks the speed at WR, he is a good possession receiver but until someone of the sophs or freshman with speed step up there will be no improvement. WATCH CLEMSON, BAMA, OHIO ST AND OKLAHOMA they all have 3 guys faster than anything we had this year!!

  7. Does anyone besides me wonder out loud why Kelly didn’t use any of these speed guys for even ONE play
    vs Clemson?

    Please don’t tell me about burning a full year of eligibility. I believe that happens if you use a player in 4 games in a season.

    Even so, if you are that close to a NC, WTF!

  8. Boykin will be NFL project. I can see Him lumbering downfield like dinosaur Antonio Gates did yesterday for the Chargers. Had to like Journeyman Golden Tatel lll hauling in Winning td for the Eagles. Even Josh Adams got in the act with a carry.

  9. I get the feeling MILES will bulk up a bit and end up playing T.E. in the NFL!! He will have the speed and size for the position and most teams carry a blocking and receiving T.E. so the blocking won’t be as much a problem. I think teams will see his potential, and groom him to become a receiving threat to complement any offense!! Best of luck to MILES who seems to be getting better year by year!! GO IRISH!!!

  10. Boykin will be a NFL project. I can see Him lumbering down the field 10 years from now just like dinosaur Antonio Gates yesterday shagging balls for the Chargers. Oh, and btw, you had to love seeing Golden Tate lll pull in that pass to win for the Eagles. Very impressive post game interview. Even Josh Adams got in on the act with a carry.

  11. This one is a bit curious for me as well. I remember Walker leaving early for the NFL back in 2007 and he ended up going undrafted. If I remember correctly his NFL career was very short lived.

    I think Boykin will get drafted but in his case another year may have done wonders for him. He has great potential I think but I think NFL teams will be reluctant to take a chance on him in the early going rounds.

    ND has a lot of depth at WR I think, but not a lot of experienced depth. Boykin coming back would have been a great help to the offense, though I think Love leaving the defense will hurt more at least in the short term.

  12. We wish Miles the best. Looks like our big concerns for next year are on offense. We need difference makers at QB, WR, and running back. Lou used to say, “speed kills,” I wish our coaches would learn that. Hopefully, they find those answers before next season.

    1. Sean and others:
      Lou also said that all the speed in the world does not do a coach any good if his guy is running the wrong way!

      BGC ’77 ’82

    2. I hate to say this but most of the speed out there either cannot get in or do not want to go to ND. Yes, the Irish may recruit one or two speed guys, but it will take more than just a couple to keep with the the elite like Clemson and Bama.

      1. Your right FITZ ND has caught up in the pits, proven by their O and D-LINES!! But WR, RB, and DB they desperately lack the speed of the elite teams by far!!! My question is WHY with all the great O-LINEMAN ND has put out in the last 5 years can’t we get a 5 star RB?? Seems like the last 2 recruiting classes have picked up some needed speed at WR, but were still waiting to see the results. ND is in desperate need for a RB with game changing speed and receiving ability that makes him a Heisman candidate! IT only takes 1 to get more to follow, but we haven’t had that in over 20 years.

      2. NDcrazy…..very good question but probably answered by post you replied. I also wonder if the rave reviews of the ND OL group in recent years is warranted. Very good group indeed, but still a notch below the elite level.

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