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2018 Notre Dame football redshirt projections: Cornerbacks

2018 Notre Dame freshman cornerback Noah Boykin
2018 Notre Dame freshman cornerback DJ Brown
Notre Dame cornerback coach Todd Lyght speaks with the media following a practice this spring at the Guglielmino Athletics Complex in South Bend. (By Tom Davis of News-Sentinel.com)
2018 Notre Dame freshman cornerback Tariq Bracy
2018 Notre Dame freshman cornerback Joe Wilkins Jr.

There will most definitely be freshmen athletes that receive thorough looks from the Notre Dame football coaches this fall as it relates to the Fighting Irish secondary. However, that certainty mostly pertains to the safety position and incoming studs Houston Griffith and Derrik Allen.

In terms of the cornerback position, and the four newcomers that will vie for playing time immediately, that is a question mark.

Fighting Irish cornerbacks coach Todd Lyght was explaining this spring that certain players are more suited to play either the boundary (outside) position or field (inside) spot, but with the freshmen, he’ll experiment.

“When we get the young guys in,” Lyght explained, “we’re going to let them play both and see where they are most comfortable and then we’ll go from there.”

For the first time, programs can play a student-athlete in up to four games, yet still have him maintain eligibility for four more seasons. So there are players that will perform to a level that Lyght believes can help all season, while he will have to juggle who to rein in and keep eligible for four seasons down the road.

News-Sentinel.com is going to take a look over the next week at each of the position groups and the freshmen student-athletes and project the level of impact for the coming season.

Today: Cornerbacks

Friday: Offensive Line

NOAH BOYKIN

Position: Cornerback

Boykin and fellow freshmen DJ Brown are projected to get their first look in the boundary, which puts them in the difficult position of playing behind All-American candidate Julian Love, as well as junior Donte Vaughn.

“Noah is a very unique talent,” Lyght said. “He has really, really good ball skills. He is an outstanding playmaker and an outstanding competitor. I can’t wait to get him in this environment.”

The 6-foot-2, 168-pound youngster brings length to the position and excelled at an all-star camp in Louisiana this off-season. Lyght explained that the camp included some of the top offensive skill players in the country and Boykin was named as the “top defensive back.”

Projection: Could play on special teams, as well as will get limited reps in all/majority of games and won’t redshirt.

DJ BROWN

Position: Cornerback

As noted, Brown more than likely won’t break into the rotation with all of that experience ahead of him. However, that doesn’t mean that Lyght isn’t excited about working with him.

“DJ is always working out,” Lyght said. “Always. He’s a worker.”

That diligence will pay off during his career in South Bend, but it might be more noticeable in 2019, not this coming season.

“His work ethic is outstanding,” Lyght said. “He’ll fit right in with our group.”

Projection: Could play on special teams, as well as will get limited reps in all/majority of games and won’t redshirt.

TARIQ BRACY

Position: Cornerback

Both Bracy and fellow freshman Joe Wilkins Jr. are expected to begin training camp with reps at the field position behind redshirt sophomore Shaun Crawford and junior Troy Pride Jr.

Neither freshman is expected to break into the top two spots; however, like Boykin and Brown, Lyght likes Bracy a lot.

“He is an outstanding young talent,” Lyght said on National Signing Day.

Bracy brings speed to the field immediately, which intrigues Irish special teams coach Brian Polian, but at 5-foot-11 and just 170 pounds, he will face some physical challenges early.

“In the strength and power area,” Lyght said, “he is going to have to do some work, but his playmaking skills, his ball skills, his speed, and his reactive athleticism is second to none.”

Projection: If he does not redshirt, and I don’t think that he will, it will be due to his impact on special teams, not necessarily his defensive back work, which I think he can have.

JOE WILKINS JR.

Position: Cornerback

In the case of Bracy and Wilkins Jr., both also will get consideration to contribute on the offensive side of the ball as well as defensive.

Bracy has potential as a running back once he adds weight, while the 6-foot-2 Wilkins Jr. could play receiver.

“He is a really, really smart kid,” Lyght said. “I love the way that he competes on both sides of the ball.

The advantage that Wilkins Jr. does have over the other three players at his spot is his length. Despite Lyght having him open as a field corner, that length could help him grow into “an outstanding boundary corner,” according to Lyght.

“His background is more on the offensive side of the ball, which is OK,” Lyght said, “but he came along his senior year defensively and became a surer tackler. With his length and his speed, he can become an outstanding press corner.”

Projection: He needs experience defensively at this level and I would expect him to get limited reps in up to four games, but retain his eligibility for four more seasons.

For more on Notre Dame football, follow Tom Davis on Twitter at Tom101010, Facebook at Thomas Davis, and Instagram at tomdavis101010.

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