With a redshirt season complete and a wide-open receiving depth chart in front of him, Miles Boykin enters his sophomore season with a road to the field. One of Illinois’ top recruits and a physically gifted athlete, the offseason months will be vital in providing Boykin with the time to impress Mike Denbrock and the rest of the offensive brain trust.
A prototype for what Brian Kelly and company want in a boundary wide receiver, Boykin still needs some polish. But on a team with young, unproven talent, Boykin could serve as one of the standard-bearers.
6’3.5″, 225 lbs.
Sophomore, No. 81, WR
The Chicago Tribune’s Athlete of the Year, Boykin was a Semper Fidelis All-American with offers from Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Ole Miss, Florida and many others. He was a consensus four-star recruit. A first-team, All-State player. The Champaign News-Gazette’s Illinois Player of the Year.
Freshman Season (2015): Did not see action.
WHAT WE SAID LAST YEAR
Not too far off. It was better to save a year of eligibility than be used as a blocking wide receiver.
Physicality will likely dictate if Boykin sees the field this season, as it’s hard to see too many balls coming his way. But thinking back to how James Onwualu got on the field and how Daniel Smith was utilized, Boykin might not be the receiver with the biggest recruiting profile, but if the Irish plan on running with Malik Zaire and a talented offensive line and Boykin shows himself willing, he could be taking those snaps.
But to pin Boykin’s future as a blocker doesn’t do much service to his athletic traits. On Signing Day, Brian Kelly talked about the mismatches Boykin can creates. While it might take a season or two for the Irish to need Boykin to provide the offensive boost, it looks like Notre Dame has a good one in the Illinois native.
I’m stepping back from the lofty comparison I made from last year (Michael Floyd) and appreciating the other one that I made—Maurice Stovall. Ultimately, that type of big-bodied receiver is more in line with what I think Boykin will do in South Bend.
That’s not to say Boykin won’t be a productive college player. (Stovall’s senior season is one of the more under appreciated in Irish history.) But with a lot of uncertainty at the outside receiver positions, we didn’t hear much from Boykin this spring. That’s certainly not a death blow to any future potential, but it’s an indicator nonetheless.
With Corey Robinson‘s future still cloudy and the Irish entertaining the move of Alizé Jones to the boundary wide receiver spot, Boykin is playing a position where there’s opportunity. He’s also got the type that’s perfect for the position, a big, strong, physical kid that Kelly has already complimented after seeing him as a raw freshman in training camp.
That’s a good definition for upside. And at a position that’s been very productive during Kelly’s tenure in South Bend, that’s all you can ask for.
I’ve got Boykin pegged for the 10 to 15 catch range, with outliers on either side being possible. The optimist in me sees the depth chart and his physical traits. The pessimist in me sees the other guys who have been given shots in front of him and the challenge of leaping someone like Jones or Robinson if he’s healthy and playing.
Ultimately, someone is going to step in and be a surprise at the position next year. We’ve assumed Torii Hunter Jr. will be the leading man. Kevin Stepherson was the freshman spring sensation. And Jones feels like the answer if Robinson isn’t going to be able to play after a series of concussions.
It’s easy to be a fan of Boykin if you watched him as a high schooler and saw his recruiting profile. Now it’ll be up to him to fight for a role at a position that’s one of the most unsettled on the roster.