Lost in the shuffle of Brian Kelly’s decision that he will play both Malik Zaire and Deshone Kizer against Texas was Kelly’s comments regarding his reportedly struggling sophomore kicker, Justin Yoon. In the practices that have been open to the media, Yoon has not been the impressive kicker we all saw last fall causing many to be concerned.
Don’t count Brian Kelly among those concerned.
“He’s not there yet, but I think when we get ready to play Texas, I think he’ll be right on,” said Kelly on Wednesday.
Before coming to that conclusion, Kelly talked about the new battery in the place kicking unit with Deshone Kizer no longer Yoon’s holder. “I think Montgomery (VanGorder) has done a really good job. Scott has done a great job of snapping,” Kelly said. “(It’s) just mechanical. It’s just a routine that he’s got to get into. We felt like, you know, a couple times, he just doesn’t finish the way he needs to,” he added.
Justin Yoon Was a Freshman All-American
No one expected any struggles from the 2015 Freshman All-American. After a shaky start to his collegiate career, Yoon nailed the last 10 kicks of his rookie campaign including a 46 yarder at Clemson and a 52 yarder against Navy at home. He finished the season connecting on 15 of 17 field goal attempts and 50 of 52 PAT’s. His only missed PAT’s came in the first four weeks and one came against UMass when he was called upon to kick nine extra points. Clearly his leg was tired.
In all seriousness though, Yoon was a reliable weapon for Notre Dame and is expected to be one again this year. That is what has made his struggles in camp so surprising. Even with the struggles, however, Yoon has had his moments.
“When he finishes on the ball, and I think his first one in overtime was from 45 yards, you know, he is really effective,” said his head coach. “It’s just really just being consistent with his mechanics. His operation times are outstanding, so it has nothing to do with operation. Just consistency in his mechanics. I think he’s close.”
With just over two weeks to go until the Irish kick off the 2016 season in Austin against the Longhorns, hopefully Kelly is right and Yoon is close. And to be fair, nothing Yoon has done up until this point in his career would suggest that Kelly isn’t wise to have faith in his sophomore kicker.
Yoon Was a High School All-American, Too
Yoon was an Under Armour All-American at Milton Academy in Massachusetts and made an impression in the all-star game. He also set UA Bowl records with three field goals made and set the game’s record for longest kick with a 46 yarder.
With three new starters on the offensive line and three new starting wide receivers, having a reliable kicker isn’t just a nice to have for Notre Dame this season, it’s a has to have. That is, of course, if Notre Dame is to make a playoff push.
The good news here is that the ball is still booming off Yoon’s leg. Yoon also has some time to work out any kinks in his mechanics. Simulating pressure situations for kicks in practice is not easy though, Look for Kelly and put Yoon in a situation where he can end practice early with a long kick a few times over the next couple of weeks.