And In That Corner … A Thor-ough look at Notre Dame’s defensive draft hopefuls

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Notre Dame has a number of draft prospects expecting to hear their names this weekend, so many it makes sense to break the discussion into defense and offense. While this space always has some thoughts about these players individually, draft analysis requires a different angle, one trying to project how these players will fit in at the next level rather than looking back on their college careers.

For that, and for a better understanding of the broader draft picture, let’s turn to Rotoworld’s lead college football writer and NFL draft analyst, Thor Nystrom. And let’s begin with former Irish defenders, as a couple hold genuine first-round hopes.

DF: Thor, if there is anything you like more than college football, it is the puzzle of the NFL draft. As you and I have discussed throughout the last few months, my insights into someone’s past and proven abilities, like Jerry Tillery’s as an example, provide only so much value this time of year. Thanks for helping fill in those gaps.

Let’s start with Tillery, as I believe the defensive tackle almost certainly will be the first Notre Dame player called this weekend, right? It took him a long time to grow into someone the Irish could rely upon, but by the end he was a defensive force that played a key role in propelling them to the Playoff.

About where do you see him going and why? What sets Tillery apart?

TN: Tillery will be the first of these names off the board, absolutely, followed by Julian Love (with the dark horse being Miles Boykin).

Where Tillery is going to go is up in the air. I have not seen him going in the first round in many mock drafts, but I have a gut feeling he will wind up in the first on Thursday.

Perhaps I am saying that because I love Tillery. I rank him as the No. 11 overall prospect in the class. But I also think he is the kind of the guy front offices are hush-hush about when talking with the media. He was very under the radar coming into this year because he played out of position in a role he was miscast for and had a petulant reputation that preceded him, the 2016 USC incident being the most public.

Then this fall Brian Kelly finally unshackled the kid and moved him to the position Tillery was put on this earth to play, three-technique, and he went thermonuclear.

The counting stats —  eight sacks and 10.5 TFL — don’t tell the story. This is a Notre Dame crowd, so I’m probably preaching to the choir, but I have three crazy Tillery stats from Pro Football Focus and a crazy Tillery contextual M. Night Shyamalan-twist to offer.

PFF Fact No. 1: Tillery tied Alabama’s Quinnen Williams (whom I consider the best player in this draft class) for the highest pass-rushing grade of interior defenders in college football last season.

PFF Fact No. 2:  Tillery created 48 total pressures (No. 3 among all interior defenders), with an additional 32 pass-rushing wins that didn’t result in a pressure. In other words, he whipped his man 32 times from the interior on passing downs and didn’t get credited with a pressure. He led college football in wins that didn’t result in a pressure — that’s just rotten luck. (DF Note: And probably a testament to some of the defensive ends Notre Dame returns in 2019.) Nonetheless, Tillery still finished in the top-three of interior in pressures.

PFF Fact No. 3: Tillery won nearly twenty percent of his pass-rushing snaps last year.

Shyamalan Twist: Tillery played the final eight games with a torn right labrum that was injured in late September. It’s not just that he played through it without a complaint — nobody even knew he had a torn labrum until he was home on vacation before the Playoff and his mother, a nurse, sent him in to get it looked at.

Thor’s complete DT rankings

And then Tillery went out and played Clemson, and then he went out and did full athletic testing. He didn’t duck the bowl or the combine with a phantom injury, like many of his contemporaries. He was willing to play compromised. And in 2018, he DOMINATED while not at 100 percent.

Tillery is a freak athlete with a perfect frame.  Interior penetration in the NFL is gold — like his old helmet — and that is Tillery’s calling card. I think he’s just getting started.

DF: Next up should be Julian Love. He has never tested all that well — how excited can an NFL front office get about him improving to a 4.45-second 40-yard dash at Notre Dame’s Pro Day after struggling to a 4.54 at the NFL combine? I am not sure any of his numbers set him apart, which is why many mock drafts have dropped him a round or two this spring.

Not all mock drafts, though. You, Josh Norris and Chris Simms did a mock draft last week in which Josh took Love at No. 29, to the Kansas City Chiefs. You did not speak against the pick (I am pretty sure you were too busy failing to find someone to pick at No. 30), while Chris went so far as to compare Love to his former teammate and five-time Pro Bowler Ronde Barber. That kind of thought process is more in line with what Irish fans expect after watching Love for three seasons.

Which end of the spectrum do you lean toward?

TN: That mock draft was a trip! NFL teams have 10 minutes to pick. We did it on the spot, and I had to contend throughout with the distraction of Simms’ banter, a challenge no NFL front office will face this weekend.

And yeah, I’m with him on Love.

He’s bigger than former Washington cornerback Byron Murphy, more athletic than Byron Murphy — and he had a career almost as good as Byron Murphy. (Murphy had PFF grades of 86.6 in 2017 and 92.0 in 2018; Love had grades of 81.8 in 2017 and 90.4 in 2018.)

Love is a natural cover corner. He’s agile, technically-elite and super smart. Oh, and he’s got loosey-goosey hips that help him swivel like a chair and flow with the receiver. He shares Murphy’s deep speed concerns, but that is the biggest knock.

Thor’s complete CB rankings

I don’t think Love is quite at Murphy’s level as a player, but he’s not far off. There are a lot of similarities in coverage (Murphy is better against the run). Love has the brains, the body and athleticism. I’m bullish. (DF Note: Thor compares Love to Murphy because the two are competing to be the second cornerback drafted behind former LSU cornerback Greedy Williams.)

DF: I am not sure who to go with next. How about Notre Dame’s leading tackler each of the last two seasons, Te’von Coney? Another player who does not test as well by the clock or the weight as many others, no matter how solidly he plays. Since Clark Lea began coaching the Irish linebackers in 2017, Coney progressed by leaps and bounds. He went from recognizing a play about as quickly as I do to instinctively filling a hole before the hole even opened. That is how you rack up 239 tackles the last two seasons, including 33 between two bowl games against LSU and Clemson.

How much can Coney’s production make up for his lack of elite athleticism?

TN: I fear Coney Island is going to suffer in translation to the next level. He measured  in at only 6-foot and 234 pounds at the NFL Combine, and then he tested in the fifth-percentile of SPARQ, a database correlating a player’s athleticism tests to historic marks at his position.

His RAS score — a metric out of 10 rating your size-adjusted athletic test scores which weights the tests by importance — was 2.56. Ten would be the most athletic linebacker to ever test while zero equates to an inanimate trash can set up behind the nose tackle. Scoring a 2.56 further confirms Coney enters the NFL out-gunned athletically.

The kid is a warrior, though. Loved him in college. A reliable, tone-setting All-American. Very smart player, great instincts. I just think he’s going to be a negative in coverage at the next level.

He’s always going to be on the wrong end of size/athleticism encounters, and want-to and heart only go so far when you’re on a playing field with 21 NFL-caliber athletes. In the modern NFL, you have to cover well. That’s why unathletic linebackers are going the way of the immobile seven-foot center in the NBA.

I rank Coney as LB14. I know I’m lower on him than others, but I do think he’s a high-floor prospect who can help against the run. I just don’t think he’ll ever be more than a replaceable starter in the NFL because of the coverage concerns. Good depth piece, if nothing else. I grade him in the late-round 5/early-round 6 neighborhood.

DF: And that brings us to Drue Tranquill. Talk about a college career. From maligned safety to injured safety to rover and finally to inside linebacker, one could argue it took five years for Tranquill to land at his best position. Before getting into his current draft stock, I have to ask — Do you think he would have been drafted last year?

TN: Last year, yeah, I do, I think he made a big enough leap in 2017 to justify a flier. But he really struggled in 2016, and your point about his journey to this point is well taken.

DF: And what about nowadays? There are Irish fans who laugh at the thought of Tranquill being drafted at all. If it was in the realm of possibility a year ago, his work at Buck in 2018 should make it a certainty in my mind. He’ll never be a top-flight NFL player, maybe not even more than a situational player, but in those situations he could provide the hybrid second-tier skill set the NFL is skewing toward as it becomes more and more like college football. That, combined with his physicality, is what allowed him to excel under Lea these last two seasons.

How does the NFL view a Drue Tranquill, a 23-year-old with absolutely no character issues, but two torn ACLs in his past? An athlete who struggled in coverage while at safety but excelled in it at linebacker?

TN: To me, Tranquill is the opposite case of Coney.

Hear me out, Irish fans — Coney was the better college player, better player by far.

My appreciation for Tranquill stems from loving linebackers who can cover. And that’s what he is: A 6-foot-2 former safety with an 88th percentile SPARQ score and a 9.87 (!) RAS. Tranquill is an ace in coverage, and I think he’s only going to get better as he learns his new position.

Thor’s complete LB rankings

As we talked about in the Coney section, coverage ability is so valuable in the modern NFL. If you want to break what’s important in a linebacker evaluation into a simple pie chart with pass defense and run defense, pass defense value swallows the run game piece.

In a nutshell, that’s why I am high on Tranquill and low on Coney. The red flag with Tranquill is his medical history. My love is contingent on my doctors giving the thumbs up. Assuming they do, I think he’s a top-100 prospect based on the value of his best skill and the ceiling it gives him. I rank him LB7, the No. 87 player in the class.

Where Notre Dame was and is: Offensive line

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Returning 55 starts among four starters and five more from a veteran utilityman is a starting point most offensive lines would be envious of. All that aside, though, Notre Dame entered the spring without any idea who its center would be after All-American and three-year starter Sam Mustipher ran out of eligibility.

At least, that was how it looked from the outside.

WHERE NOTRE DAME WAS
The wonderings at center made sense. Mustipher had been a mainstay at the pivot point for so long, one highly-touted center-specific recruit had already transferred early in his Irish career (Parker Boudreaux in the summer of 2017). There was neither apparent depth nor experience on the roster with Mustipher’s collegiate career ending.

Entering the spring, the position competition was expected to include fifth-year Trevor Ruhland, a spot substitute across all three interior positions last year, sophomore Luke Jones and possibly even early-enrolled freshman Zeke Correll. With Ruhland sidelined for the spring with a shoulder injury, the young pair would have plenty of chances to prove themselves.

Or not. Enter sophomore Jarrett Patterson, who appeared in three games last season at left tackle late in blowout victories. In the winter, Notre Dame committed to moving Patterson to center, and there was no hesitation to it, no half-measure.

“Jarrett was one of our best o-lineman last year,” Irish offensive coordinator Chip Long said during the first week of spring practice. “If he had to go into a game, I would have had no concerns with him. He’s a young man, very athletic, very mature for his young age.”

WHERE NOTRE DAME IS
By wholeheartedly committing to moving Patterson to center from the outset, rather than labeling it as an experiment or a trial, the Irish solidified their line right away. Senior Liam Eichenberg will start at left tackle for a second season. Junior Aaron Banks will pick up at left guard after starting there in 2018’s final six games. Senior Tommy Kraemer will be at right guard for a second year, with Ruhland still around to spell him if Kraemer struggles. And junior Robert Hainsey will spend a third season at right tackle.

“I can’t really say one person hasn’t gotten better, which is a great thing,” Long said in the last week of spring practice. “Their physicality, their get-off, just their overall knowledge and experience of the offense has been really good to see and really consistent level week-in and week-out during spring ball.

“They’re going against a pretty good front, too, and that makes you excited, to finally have a veteran group, guys who played a lot.

“You add Jarrett Patterson, who is as solid as they come in that group, builds some excitement for the offense, for me at least.”

The quality of that defensive front, specifically its ends, must be remembered when considering how the offensive line fared in the Blue-Gold Game on April 13. The defense recorded 15 “sacks,” numbers inflated by the exhibition’s design. Even with the whistle-inclined red jerseys on the quarterbacks, only five of those sacks came against the first-string offensive line, and two of those were with sophomore quarterback Phil Jurkovec struggling to get rid of the ball in general. Those are not reflective of what Notre Dame’s offensive line may be capable.

“I thought by-in-large, they did a pretty good job, gave [senior quarterback Ian Book] a chance to get the ball out,” Irish head coach Brian Kelly said after the spring finale. “[The defense] did bring pressure, too, obviously, and forced a quarterback to really manage his pocket, but I thought all in all they looked pretty good up front.”

What the offensive line should be capable of depends on Patterson’s ability to turn solid practice showings into contributions in games, on Eichenberg’s continued development in his second year as a starter, and on the right-side tandem looking like the veterans they are. Kraemer becoming lighter on his feet should aid that cause, as should Hainsey (theoretically) avoiding another preseason hamstring injury.

It will also depend on depth, because at some point an offensive lineman will get hurt. Maybe another Hainsey hamstring issue, maybe a sprained ankle somewhere, maybe simply a lost helmet. By season’s end, junior Josh Lugg will hear his name called.

“We played six guys all last year,” Kelly said. “Josh Lugg is going to be our Swiss Army Knife, if you will. Probably a bad analogy, but he can play center, he can play guard, he can play tackle for us.”

Lugg might not be the answer at tackle — it is more likely Banks would move to tackle if needed and Lugg then fill in at guard — but he would still be a part of the solution, with a presumed-healthy-in-the-fall Ruhland around for emergency situations.

WHERE NOTRE DAME WILL BE
No one new is coming, because they all arrived early this spring. Correll was joined by tackles Quinn Carroll and Andrew Kristofic, and guard John Olmstead. With that young quartet, the Irish have 14 scholarship offensive linemen after Jones’ pending transfer. For that matter, all but Ruhland have multiple years of eligibility remaining.

Yes, it is quite possible — frankly, likely, as long as Hainsey does not declare for the NFL draft after just three collegiate seasons — Notre Dame returns its starting offensive line intact in 2020.

RELATED READING: Luke Jones’ transfer cuts into Notre Dame’s options at center
Notre Dame gets the letter Quinn Carroll
Notre Dame gets the letter: Zeke Correll
Notre Dame gets the letter: Andrew Kristofic
Notre Dame gets the letter: John Olmstead

Where Notre Dame was and is: Quarterbacks
Where Notre Dame was and is: Running Backs
Where Notre Dame was and is: Receivers
Where Notre Dame was and is: Tight ends

Friday at 4: Notre Dame’s sideline Skycam that almost wasn’t, but may be again

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You didn’t like it, and for most of Notre Dame’s Blue-Gold Game on Saturday, Rob Hyland was not a fan of the sideline Skycam, either. The NBC Sports producer of the Irish football broadcasts wasn’t a fan of the system for most of last week.

The new camera angle was designed to run via cables hung from two 135-foot cranes outside Notre Dame Stadium, but winds reaching 25 mph last Thursday and Friday made testing the system impossible. Admittedly, the Blue-Gold Game was understood to be a publicly-viewed trial, but gaining some familiarity with the new setup before the broadcast went live was also expected. Saturday’s winds did not reach those speeds, but they were enough for concern to trump innovation. The cranes would not be used; instead the traditional Skycam would be re-appropriated to the sideline view.

As a result, the first half of the Blue-Gold Game became the initiation for both the production truck and the viewer. In some respects, those two approaches are one and the same.

“It was really tinkering throughout the second half, and the first half, to find what’s most pleasing as a football fan,” Hyland said this week. “I knew in the first half, this is never anything I want to watch, but we had to try it just to completely rule it out, just to make sure we could try that movement at different heights, different distances.”

Watching the spring exhibition, the tinkering was distinct and distracting. Late in the first quarter, the broadcast returned from commercial with the camera swooping in toward the line of scrimmage, beginning high up in the stands and only aligning with the line of scrimmage as Phil Jurkovec received a shotgun snap, the camera never quite becoming stationary until after it aggressively zoomed in on C’Bo Flemister as he caught a pass in the flat, whistles blowing the play dead because Khalid Kareem had slapped Jurkovec on the rear end well before he got rid of the ball.

Just six game minutes later, though, the broadcast exited a commercial break with the sideline Skycam already in position, ready for a Lawrence Keys reverse off a pitch from Kyren Williams.

The curtailed pregame experimentation deserves only some of the fault for these early touch-and-go moments. Some things can be learned only in the flow of the game.

“We were still able to pull off what we wanted to achieve, which was how does this camera angle look? What can we do to achieve a more dynamic approach to play-by-play coverage?” Hyland said. “Those questions were answered. Unfortunately they were answered throughout the first half. Director Peirre Moossa and I kind of landed on what we really liked at the start of the second half, which was much less movement prior to the snap.

“If you watch the game back, we were drifting into the snap. In theory, it sounded like a cool idea. A sky camera is much more of a fluid image, but when it came down to it, when we stopped moving the camera in the second half, we were all much happier with the presentation.”

Hyland points to a sequence with about five minutes left in the fourth quarter as a good example of that presentation. At the shotgun snap, all 22 players on the field are in the frame. The camera angle includes all of the opposing sideline and the down marker on the near sideline. Perhaps 52 of the 53 yards of the field’s width are in screen. At the snap, the camera zoomed in down the line of scrimmage on a Mick Assaf rush up the middle. Two plays later, the camera operator anticipated yet another Assaf dive up the middle and zoomed in before the snap to the extent that one receiver-defensive back pairing was offscreen.

While the sideline Skycam took more than three quarters to settle upon this view at the snap, it is the view that encouraged the production truck of the innovative angle’s viability. (NBC Sports)

Compare that visual to those from last year’s Notre Dame home finale against Florida State. With the ball at the 16-yard line and the pivoting camera above the 22, the action is about 25 percent off-center of the screen. On the Seminoles reverse, the swarming Irish defensive line obstructs the camera angle, those six yards off-center proving detrimental.

Jump forward in a replay to the longest play of the game, a 40-yard reception by Seminoles receiver Nyquan Murray. A shotgun snap at the 19-yard line is nearly centered on the screen, but the camera immediately zooms in on the Notre Dame pass rush, which almost got to Deondre Francois. As he released the ball, not a single receiver or defensive back was in frame. The camera cut upfield to Murray with Nick Coleman in coverage, rather than following the ball to an already-in-frame receiver.

The angle of the Skycam might be able to avoid that, maybe not for every player, but much more of the routes should be visible. On the Blue-Gold Game’s longest play (pictured at top at the snap), a 43-yard completion to Chase Claypool from Ian Book, Claypool was out of view as Book let go of the ball, though two receivers and defensive backs were still in the screen. The camera did not harshly pivot to Claypool, though, instead tracking Book’s pass such that Claypool came into the screen with the pass still closer to its peak than to him. A far better idea of the play was conveyed than the Murray completion.

It took until five minutes remained in Saturday’s broadcast for Hyland and Moossa to consistently find the proper camera height and depth to provide such an angle. This was very much a test run. No offense to the Blue-Gold Game, a better-spent afternoon than most in April, but if there is any day to test and tinker, it is during a practice. That is, after all, exactly what Brian Kelly and the Irish were doing on the field.

Finding that view by the end of the day sets up the sideline Skycam for potential future use. There are logistical issues to figure out so winds do not spark safety concerns, let alone shake the camera. By no means is it a certainty the sideline Skycam returns as the primary play-by-play view in the fall, but by no means is it inconceivable.

“Still has a lot of room for growth,” Hyland said. “I hope the Notre Dame faithful don’t give up on this yet. I think there’s lot of room for growth, and I think it is ultimately better.”

Hyland unflinchingly sees it as better because he realizes some things the common viewer does not, yours truly included. NBC’s Triple Crown broadcasts, which Hyland also produces, offer more extreme examples of the issues he faces at Notre Dame Stadium, or at any football stadium.

During the Kentucky Derby in two weeks, a camera will run along the rail on the backstretch, a view first used last year. For years, Hyland had lamented the infield obstructions blocking his cameras from following the race throughout those 30 seconds of the most exciting two minutes in sports. The rail camera’s success in solving that issue and also in bringing the viewer closer to the horses led to some of the thoughts about getting closer to the action on a football field.

A normal broadcast, the one we are all used to and comfortable with, utilizes three cameras for primary play-by-play: one at midfield, and one at each 20- or 25-yard line, per Hyland. For the vast majority of the game, the camera is not along the line of scrimmage, not even within five yards of the line of scrimmage. The sideline Skycam fixes that, plain and simple.

“I want this for the fall. I want Notre Dame to have a non-traditional play-by-play camera to hopefully bring the viewers closer to the action, to see the passing lanes, to see the running lanes,” Hyland said before delving into the challenges needed to be overcome in order for that want to become a reality. “… There’s a lot of potential to be at the line of scrimmage with a camera on any given play.”

Hyland’s ideal features both the traditional and the sideline Skycams, the original plan for Saturday. A logistical and production dance must be orchestrated to operate both cameras, but he has ideas for that choreography. No graphics need be lost, not even the first down line which was absent from the Blue-Gold Game.

“Discount the first half. That was our rehearsal,” Hyland said. “When we got the second half, even though it was a running clock, we all felt a little bit better about where we were.”

By then most judgements had been made. Hyland knows how anyone feels about change, Irish fans in particular. In a poll held here Monday, 40.5 percent of respondents felt it was an acceptable experiment for the Blue-Gold Game but nothing more, while 37.9 percent were open to regular use. On Twitter, 60 percent argued for use only in replays and 8 percent wanted the sideline Skycam as the primary play-by-play view.

Hyland (and, well, NBC) should be encouraged the responses are even that open to this idea after this experiment that was adjusted from its start Saturday and took 55 minutes to find its groove. Viewers should be encouraged that somewhat-improvised product fared as well as it did, offering a tangible hint at the sideline Skycam’s future potential.

Four-star Hawaiian DE bolsters Notre Dame’s future pass rush

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Notre Dame’s greatest strength in 2019 will be its defensive line, specifically its defensive ends. In addition to NFL-caliber starters Khalid Kareem and Julian Okwara, the Irish enjoy depth with seniors Daelin Hayes, Ade Ogundeji and Jamir Jones. But each one of those names will be gone by the end of the 2020 season. Continued success and further Playoff-contention will depend on keeping the depth chart stocked at defensive end.

Thursday’s commitment of consensus four-star Jordan Botelho (St. Louis High School; Honolulu) will aid that cause. A linebacker in high school, Botelho’s 6-foot-3 frame can hold more than his current 230 pounds, making a collegiate move to weakside/drop end not only likely but also planned. (Seniors Okwara and Hayes weigh 240 and 268, respectively.)

His skill set already resembles Okwara’s, though obviously far from as refined. Botelho can drop into coverage — the first snap of the above highlight video shows Botelho jumping a route for an interception — but he is most comfortable rushing the quarterback, either through or around a larger tackle. Those similarities were part of Notre Dame’s recruiting pitch.

“My favorite part was probably the coach’s meeting with [defensive line coach Mike Elston], when he showed me my film and compared it to his players,” Botelho said to Blue & Gold Illustrated. “He’d show me a clip of me making a play and then his players doing the same thing. The position I’ll play is very similar to what I’m playing right now.”

The seventh commit in the Irish class of 2020, Botelho had plenty of options. All but two of the Pac-12 (Arizona, Stanford) chased him, though names beyond the West Coast pursued him, including Georgia, LSU, Oklahoma and Ohio State.

He is the third defensive linemen in the class, joining German defensive end Alexander Ehrensberger and rivals.com four-star defensive tackle Aidan Keanaaina.

Coming from Hawaii, Botelho will have the chance to line up alongside fellow islander junior defensive tackle Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa and in front of safety Alohi Gilman if Gilman chooses a fifth year of college football over entry into the NFL draft.

Reports: Former consensus four-star CB Noah Boykin to transfer from Notre Dame

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After not challenging for an open starting job throughout spring practice, sophomore cornerback Noah Boykin intends to transfer from Notre Dame, according to multiple reports. Irish Illustrated first reported Boykin’s plans.

Unlike classmates TaRiq Bracy and Houston Griffith, Boykin did not see the field in his freshman campaign. He remained behind both this spring as they competed for the starting boundary cornerback job, this despite Boykin’s 6-foot-2 frame giving him some natural gifts that may have made sense along the sideline. With senior Donte Vaughn expected to fully recover from shoulder surgery this winter, Boykin may not have been in the two-deep by the end of August.

As a consensus four-star recruit who shocked Notre Dame with his Signing Day commitment in February 2018, Boykin was the final piece of a class that maybe always should have expected a cornerback transfer. After the Irish staff failed to sign a single cornerback in 2017, it corrected course with five signees the next cycle — DJ Brown and Joe Wilkins joining the aforementioned trio, though Brown has since moved to safety and Wilkins to receiver.

Boykin was the rare instance of a genuine Signing Day surprise. Formerly a Maryland commit, he entered National Signing Day widely-expected to sign with Florida. If there was a last-minute change of heart, it would be to Virginia. Even the Irish staff had presumed the class would not include Boykin, until he chose Notre Dame during his ceremony.

Notre Dame’s pursuit of Boykin went beyond the football field, even more than usual, and in a bit of a reversal of recruiting norms.

“One of the things that impressed with, and maybe this doesn’t happen everywhere, we weren’t certain about Noah and his ability to come to Notre Dame and be a great fit until after his admissions meeting,” Irish head coach Brian Kelly said upon finishing that National Signing Day. “The feedback that we got from admissions in terms of his interview really sold us on this was the right place for him.

“… We know about his football ability. He was one of the best players at the (Offense-Defense All-American Bowl), has got a confidence about him at that corner position. He’s a natural corner, and just gives us great flexibility and depth at that position that we’ve been lacking for so long.”

Boykin’s transfer lowers Notre Dame’s scholarship count to 86 expected this fall, needing to be no higher than the NCAA limit of 85 before the season begins.

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