Blue and Gold Illustrated

August 2017

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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24 AUGUST 2017 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY LOU SOMOGYI I n the final three games of last season, sophomore wide receiver Miles Boykin began to make the first advancements in his career. He played a career-high 26 snaps on offense versus Army, snared his first touchdown pass (18 yards) to give Notre Dame a 24-7 lead versus Virginia Tech in an eventual loss, and played 24 snaps versus USC in a 45-27 defeat that ended a miserable 4-8 campaign. Walking off the field at USC is when the finality of a nightmare season hit Boykin and so many teammates. "That was an embarrassing game," Boykin said. "We played hard, but that's not what it's about here. I want to win every game I play in. The campus just isn't the same when Notre Dame football isn't winning. It's really sad, it's really sorry. It's hard talking about it even now … just knowing something like that can never happen here again. "I had to look inside of myself and realize I can do better than this, I am better than this and I'm not going to demand anything less of myself. I had to get that mindset ready." Throughout this spring, the 6-4, 225-pound Boykin was a conspicu- ous mainstay with his pass routes, especially in the red zone. His reps with the first unit keep rising because of better consistency at tracking and catching the ball, plus more physi- cality with his frame. Finally, his de- ceptive speed also was on display a few times when he pulled away from defenders. "He's very sneaky, he eats up a lot of ground with those long strides, and before you know it he's running past people," head coach Brian Kelly said. His stellar spring was capped with five catches for 102 yards, both game highs, in the Blue-Gold Game. Because of his rangy frame, Boykin often has been projected as a future tight end. That has been tabled. "I'm one of those players you have to see in person before you believe my speed," Boykin told Blue & Gold Illustrated shortly after he signed with the Fighting Irish in February 2015. "I don't look too fast on the film. … Coaches have told me that when they came to my school to see me run routes … at the end they'd see me as a receiver and not a tight end." Redshirted as a freshman in 2015, Boykin's prime asset was his ability to shield defenders with his frame, much like boxing out in basketball, the sport he was recruited to play by local schools such as DePaul after already making All-Chicago Catho- lic League as a sophomore at Provi- dence Catholic. His main concen- tration at Notre Dame has included developing separation skills. "You don't necessarily learn a lot in high school because there is always separation, but once you get here it's a little bit tougher," said Boykin, who has worn No. 81 since high school when older brother George — who wore the same number and is work- ing on his commercial pilot license — saw his football career end after suffering a brain contusion. Last year, sophomore classmates Equanimeous St. Brown (58 catches, 16.6 yards per catch, nine touch- downs), C.J. Sanders (24 catches, plus two kick returns for scores) and Chris Finke (10 catches, including touchdowns in his final two games) all made a bigger splash than Boykin, whose six catches netted 81 yards. Now with upperclassmen status, the quartet is expected to ratchet up their games collectively. "When we were freshmen and had a bad practice, Coach wasn't really blaming it on the younger players," Boykin said. "He was blaming it on the older players to set a tempo. That's huge for us now. Get here early and be here mentally and physically." Under first-year strength and con- ditioning coach Matt Balis, the en- ergy level has elevated appreciably. "He's always ready," Boykin said. "It doesn't matter what time in the morning it is, how late it is, he's al- ways ready. I think he's starting to wear off on us now. I'm always ready to do something. "Everything is a competition. COMING ON FAST Junior Miles Boykin is a key part of a maturing receiving corps in search of better balance

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