Incoming freshman CB Noah Boykin ready for challenge at Notre Dame

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

In less than a month, Noah Boykin will embark on a college football career that few predicted would happen.

There was little doubt that Boykin, a four-star cornerback, would find himself at a major college football program. But at Notre Dame? Even on the morning of National Signing Day in February, that result didn’t seem likely.

For starters, not many students, let alone athletes, make the jump from Washington (D.C.) H.D. Woodson to Notre Dame. The Irish coaching staff made sure to identify if Boykin would be a fit in the program.

“He comes from a school that is not a predictor, a school that we would normally not recruit here at Notre Dame,” head coach Brian Kelly said on signing day. “But I will tell you that one of the things that we were so 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.

“The feedback that we got from admissions in terms of his interview really sold us on ‘this was the right place for us.’ “Here’s a young man that wanted to reach for the best and not settle, and that’s what really drove this.”

The recruiting coverage industry had Boykin headed elsewhere too. The 247Sports Crystal Ball, a tool that allows recruiting analysts to predict the destination for a prospect, didn’t have a single Notre Dame selection. Virginia (64 percent) and Florida (28 percent) received most of the 25 submitted predictions. Mike Farrell, national recruiting director for Rivals, also picked Florida the day before signing day.

Instead, Boykin, who was previously committed to Maryland, signed with Notre Dame.

“It was just about picking the right school for me,” Boykin said. “I had first chosen Maryland. Maryland, that’s where I wanted to go, but maybe not what I need. I know I needed something to fall back on with my education.

“That’s not to say that a Maryland education is not the best, but I want the best of the best. I want to be the best. That’s where I was coming from in making my decision.”

Wayne Johnson, defensive coordinator at H.D. Woodson, has confidence that Boykin can handle the transition to Notre Dame.

“Noah fits the bill academically, but then on top of that, he has a swagger,” Johnson said. “He’s somebody that I know can live up to the billing and change his culture by being surrounded by a lot of smart people. That’s the culture that he’s going to have to deal with and adapt with. I’m sure he’ll be able to do it because he’s a really smart guy.”

Johnson, a self-described Notre Dame fan, said he hopes the Irish coaching staff continues to recruit at H.D. Woodson. His team had five seniors sign with FBS programs in the 2018 class.

“I hope Notre Dame stays coming around because every year, as a public school, we get six or seven guys that go major,” Johnson said. “This might be our down year (in 2019). We might go four, maybe five, to go this year. But 2020 we’re going to have about six or seven. They’ve already been offered.”

How Boykin acclimates himself at Notre Dame may determine the likelihood of the Irish returning to the school. For Boykin, accepting the challenge was the first step. Now he will have to find a way to maximize his potential.

“Of course, it’s going to be a hard transition. It was going to be a hard transition anywhere I went,” Boykin said. “At the same time, you have help around you. The graduation rate at Notre Dame is very high. I understand once you get there you have to get in the books and get busy.”

The combined recruiting efforts of Kelly, defensive coordinator Clark Lea and cornerbacks coach Todd Lyght helped Boykin feel comfortable with choosing Notre Dame.

“They wanted to make sure I made the best decision. They didn’t really press me,” Boykin said. “Wherever I went, I believe coach Lyght, coach Lea and coach Kelly would have been happy for me.”

On the field, Boykin makes perfect sense for the Irish. He’s a cornerback with size, speed and coverage skills. Rivals ranked Boykin as the No. 21 cornerback in the 2018 class. 247Sports slated him No. 25 at the position.

With four cornerbacks in the class, it will be hard for all of them to contribute as freshmen. If Boykin can find a way to make an impact this season, that’s one development that can’t be considered a surprise.

“He’s a natural corner,” Kelly said, “and just gives us great flexibility and depth at that position that we’ve been lacking for so long here.”

Four-star cornerback Noah Boykin, a 2018 signee, is ready to make the tough transition to Notre Dame starting next month.