Our yearly Now or Never series continues today with a player who still has three years of eligibility remaining, but plays at a position at which Notre Dame is simply loaded – wide receiver. Miles Boykin heads into his junior year with a lot of eligibility remaining, but will be fighting for every rep with all of the talent Notre Dame has at wide receiver on the 2017 roster.
MIles Boykin came to Notre Dame a little over two years ago as a composite 4-star recruit with offers from Florida, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Oregon, and Wisconsin. He played in the Semper Fi All-American Bowl and was a top 200 overall prospect from Scout, 247 Sports, and Rivals. In short, he was an elite recruit for Notre Dame and came in with a lot of promise.
Boykin spent his freshman season on the scout team as the 2015 Notre Dame wide receiver corps was a senior laden group featuring Will Fuller, Corey Robinson, Chris Brown, and Amir Carlisle. Last year it looked like the door was open for Boykin for a prominent role as Notre Dame replaced all three starters. While Boykin played in all 12 games for the Irish last fall, he only caught 6 passes for 81 yards and a single touchdown.
Reason for Optimism
When Notre Dame entered spring practice, Miles Boykin was one of the more intriguing players to watch. He came in with the pedigree of an elite wide receiver but after two years in the program he only had 6 receptions to show for it. By the end of spring, Boykin showed why he came in with the recruiting rankings he did with a spot atop the depth chart at the “W” position.
A new assistant coaching staff opened new opportunities for Boykin and helped bring out the player that held offers from Florida and Ohio State a few years ago. Boykin was one of the more impressive players for Notre Dame this spring and made some plays downfield – something that some questioned whether or not the 6’4″, 225 lbs wide receiver was capable of. In one spring session open to the media, Boykin took a slant from Brandon Wimbush and raced 70 yards for a touchdown.
Boykin is still one of the few Notre Dame receivers on the roster who can be huge red-zone target. He is the largest wide receiver on the roster and could still become the red zone target I predicted he would be last year this fall.
With Miles Boykin, the size, speed, and skill are all there for him to be a very good wide receiver for Notre Dame. To this point in his career he hasn’t quite been able to put it all together, but he showed signs of doing just that in spring practice.
Reason for Doubt
While there is plenty of reason for optimism with Boykin, there is also reason to doubt. Most of those reasons are the other wide receivers on the Notre Dame depth chart. Boykin will enter fall camp as the top “W” wide receiver, but he will have sophomore Javon McKinley right on his heels.
Greg wrote a couple weeks ago about McKinley being a potential sleeping giant for Notre Dame after suffering through some injuries as a freshman, and I couldn’t agree more. If McKinley is fully healthy in 2017, he will give Boykin all that he can handle in fall camp for that starting role.
If Boykin gets passed on the depth chart in 2017 and remains just a guy in the rotation, it will be safe to wonder if that will be what he will be relegated to for his entire career. Notre Dame is loaded at wide receiver and even if Equanimeous St. Brown becomes the star everyone thinks he will be and bolts for the NFL, there will not be any shortage of receivers vying for playing time.
In the scenario of St. Brown leaving early for the NFL, it shouldn’t be assumed that Boykin would step right in to a starting role if he gets passed by McKinley this fall. If St. Brown leaves, Chase Claypool could move outside opposite McKinley. Then there is the curious case of Kevin Stepherson. Stepherson has all of the talent in the world and could cement his place in the Notre Dame lineup this fall if he gets back into the good graces of the Irish coaching staff.
Notre Dame also has an elite wide receiving class in the makings with Micah Jones committed, Kevin Austin looking likely, and several other elite receivers still on the board. In short, if Boykin doesn’t make his move this year, there will be a host of other receivers to compete with.
Notre Dame is most likely going to use a lot of wide receivers and tight ends this year in Chip Long’s new offense so even if Boykin doesn’t keep his starting spot, he will get some opportunities. If he does keep that spot, it’s safe to assume that he would still only be the third option in offense behind St. Brown and junior tight end Alize Mack who is primed for a breakout season.
As the third option, Boykin would be looking at something in the range of 25-30 catches in the 300-400 yard range with 3-4 touchdowns based on Notre Dame’s distribution last year as well as Memphis’s where Long served as OC in 2016. Even as the third option though Boykin could surpass the touchdown production give his size and ability to be a red zone target.
In some ways though, stats this year are not as important for Miles Boykin as is his ability to earn and keep his spot in the lineup. If he is able to do that, then 2018 could be the year in which Boykin really explodes. There are too many elite players ahead of him for that to happen this year baring injury, but if he uses this fall to establish himself, he’ll position himself to potentially be a focal point in 2018.
That is, of course, if he can hold off Javon McKinley. That is going to be a difficult task.