Reviewing the Redshirts is an off-season series meant to resurrect discussion around the current Irish freshmen who did not play in 2015.
There were 11 players this past year who retained a year of eligibility and today we look at a big receiver hoping to bring a little bit of everything to the lineup this fall.
WR, Miles Boykin
Hometown: Tinley Park, Illinois
Height: 6-3 1/2
247 Sports COMPOSITE RANKING:
4-star, No. 25 WR, No. 3 IL, No. 196 USA, 0.917 Score
Need at Position: Mild-to-High
Expected Spot on 2016 Depth Chart: Backup Pushing for Many Snaps
Last week we looked at the Indianapolis Player of the Year in safety Mykelti Williams emerging among a small pool of players at his position and today we look at the 2014 Illinois Player of the Year in Miles Boykin. Here were my comments on Boykin after National Signing Day last year:
For a very tall receiver we're getting a nice package of tools. Boykin is polished as a receiver with good hands. I was worried about his quickness off the line and after the catch but he has improved in these areas since his junior year. Unless he develops into Kelvin Benjamin his ceiling is going to be limited, though. I don't see the Corey Robinson-type of vertical playmaking skills (or at least to that level) and Boykin isn't a threat to run away from anybody. He looks like a possession receiver who might be a year behind the type of growth we saw from Corey Robinson once he arrived in South Bend.
Sometimes these reviews open your eyes to other players. Take for example, Corey Robinson. I don't think anyone would have believed the lanky receiver was going to be limited to just 16 receptions this past year. Now heading into his senior year, Robinson will have to fight hard to hold off Miles Boykin emerging on the outside.
Typically over the course of a season Brian Kelly and his staff will make a point to say something positive about all of the freshmen who are taking redshirts. Then there are a small handful who get a lot more praise than that. Miles Boykin was one of those players.
As a recruit there was some concern that Boykin would eventually grow into a tight end then in August camp Kelly said they had an eye toward that but Miles' speed was too good at receiver. Shortly before the season there were also some comments that Boykin was close to staying up with varsity and seeing the field as a freshman.
Ultimately, this didn't happen but the praise didn't stop there. In October, Boykin was signaled out as a freshman who didn't need to play but was impressing enough that he could've "done some good things" for the team if called upon. During bowl practices, when freshmen typically get a much larger share of practice reps compared to the regular season, Kelly spoke about Boykin in glowing terms saying he was going to be a "really prominent player." Offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock chimed in and told the press that Boykin had been more or less ballin' out on the scout team during the regular season.
Boykin really took a big leap from his junior to senior year in high school and it looks like that development curve continued in 2015. For 2016, it appears everyone is expecting some big things from him.
Can he outright grab a starting position? It's possible, but may depend on what the plan is moving forward with Torii Hunter who should slide into the No. 1 wideout role. If he's primarily a slot receiver who is more of a multi-faceted weapon with jet sweeps and the like then a lot of playing time will open up on the outside. If Hunter is an outside receiver then it'll be a battle between Robinson, Equanimeous St. Brown, and Boykin for reps at the other outside spot. Plus, a couple of highly touted true freshmen could throw their hat in the ring too.
This should be a fun spring for Boykin. There will be some pressure to perform because there will be opportunity in the fall but he's in just about the perfect position for a redshirt. He got to preserve a year of eligibility, learn the ropes, and walks into a depth chart in 2016 where he'll have every right to earn a starting spot.
Something in the neighborhood of 15 to 20 catches this fall feels right to me. Something in the 30 range wouldn't be a surprise if Boykin plays a lot. The only issue I have as far as projecting over a couple catches per game is that St. Brown is likely the next option among the young receivers and there really hasn't been a big rotation at wideout under Kelly. Typically, it's a 5-man rotation and I can see Boykin being the 4th or 5th option realistically. That might bring a game with 4 catches only to be followed up by a couple games in a row without a catch.
That's not a bad place to be as a redshirt freshman, though. It should be a fun off-season battle at receiver with a lot of new blood.