Notre Dame WR Miles Boykin finding his niche in the big picture

Al Lesar
South Bend Tribune

RALEIGH, N.C. – Deferred gratification is a concept lost on a lot of college football players.

Last season, a time of inactivity in terms of competition, Miles Boykin managed to maintain a grasp of the big picture.

His time at Notre Dame hadn’t yet come. And he was good with that.

“(I learned about) the preparation aspect of the game (last season), from Monday to Friday,” Boykin said. “We spent last year running plays (on the scout team) to get the defense ready for who we were going to play. Now, the meetings are about game-planning; what we’re going to do for every situation. That’s new to me.

“(Redshirting last year) was tough. You want to go out there and play football. That’s all you know in high school. It was important to stay positive. It’s not like you’re never going to get to play football again.”

Now is his opportunity to shine.

The 6-foot-4, 224-pound sophomore gives the Irish a physical presence at receiver. While playing behind classmate Equanimeous St. Brown, Boykin is taking steps to grow into a trusted component of the offense.

Saturday’s battle at North Carolina State will give Boykin another dose of experience from which to draw as his career continues to blossom.

It’s been a gradual beginning through five games. While seeing action in each of them, Boykin has caught just three passes for 56 yards and is still looking for that first touchdown. St. Brown, on the other hand, leads the team with 25 receptions for 541 yards and six scores.

The “W” receiver, St. Brown and Boykin, in the Irish offense is critical. If the defense puts a double-team on whoever is there, that provides an opportunity to run the ball. If there’s single coverage, look out. That’s likely where a pass will be going.

“I don’t think there’s pressure at all,” Boykin said of playing such a significant position. “That’s what we practice every day. We’re out on the boundary (side of the field). We don’t have a lot of room to work with.

“It’s almost a pride factor. We take pride in being bigger receivers; being able to be more physical than most receivers at that point. Go up and get the ball. It’s not pressure, it’s a challenge we want to accept over and over again.”

Boykin is part of a Notre Dame receiving corps that is averaging 327.8 yards, good for 15th in the country. North Carolina State is giving up 298 passing yards a game.

The possibility for an explosive game exists.

“His size is incomparable,” Irish quarterback DeShone Kizer said of Boykin. “He's sitting at (6-4), has a 40-plus vertical (jump), and he's really finding his way into that kind of third-down, big-play type of guy.

“(St. Brown is) playing great ball, and we like to get it to (him) as much as we can, and if the defense allows us to throw the ball back side, which they tend to, we like to throw the ball to (him) a lot.

“With that, he takes his breaks and he steps out, and we don't lose a step with Miles. He's done a really good job with developing his routes and getting better as the weeks go on. With a guy like him who doesn't necessarily have the most playing experience, he's definitely maturing as the year goes on and becoming a guy that you truly can trust to get the ball to on big plays.”

“(Developing trust) takes time,” said Boykin. “Ever since the summer, (he and Kizer have) been we’ve been working. It’s not where it needs to be yet, but it’s still growing.”

“(Boykin has) shown that he's a competitor; he's willing to go out there and work every day,” said senior receiver Torii Hunter, Jr. “He's just trying to be attentive to the details. He always wants to learn. You can see him in meetings, he's very attentive and he asks questions. So yeah, that's the kind of play you get out of Miles Boykin. He's always going to go out there and work and try to give it his all, no matter what.”

That’s not to say Boykin’s adjustment period has come without its hiccups. The biggest came against Michigan State when a rolling Spartan punt hit him in the back of the leg and was recovered by Michigan State.

His newly-acquired attitude helped Boykin persevere and move on.

“I’m definitely more positive (as a person), since I’ve come here,” Boykin said. “(Receivers) coach (Mike Denbrock) is always talking about, ‘Don’t get down after one play. Forget about it, move onto the next one.’

“That’s huge in college football. Obviously, you’re going to make some mistakes. The positives outweigh that.”

The positives really have overshadowed the problems. A quality receiver with size, Boykin will be out to make a physical impact against the Wolfpack.

“I’m a much more polished receiver; route running; technique-wise,” Boykin said. “I’m more aggressive to the football. My knowledge of the game, I’ve learned so much about reading coverages. Those are things you don’t have to do in high school. I’ve grown as a player overall, not just as a receiver.”

And the pay off is just beginning.

The wait has been worth it.

Notre Dame’s Miles Boykin (81) can't grab a pass as Michigan State’s Vayante Copeland (13) defends during the Notre Dame-Michigan State NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend. Tribune Photo/MICHAEL CATERINA