After a Freshman All-American campaign, Justin Yoon‘s sophomore season requires an encore with more of the same—clutch kicks, excellent accuracy and a reliability you don’t expect from an underclassman.
But after arriving on the scene and stepping into the lineup, repeating that performance might not be as easy as it seems. Especially as the young kicker works through some typical August struggles.
But with Yoon and Tyler Newsome in season two of what looks to be a four-year run, Notre Dame’s specialists are locked in. The result should be another excellent season on special teams for the Irish.
5’9.5″, 190 lbs.
Sophomore, No. 19, K
An Under Armour All-American, Yoon was the No. 1 kicker in the country, per 247 Sports and Kohl’s Kicking Camp. Yoon picked Notre Dame over scholarship options from Texas A&M, Northwestern and Boston College.
Freshman Season (2015): Played in all 13 games, handling placekicking duties for the Irish. Connected on 15 of 17 field goals and 50 of 52 PATs, named to Sporting News’ Freshman All-American team. His 52-yarder against Navy was one-yard shy of school record.
WHAT WE SAID LAST YEAR
This held up quite nicely.
I’d love to reserve the right to pen this after the Texas game, but if Yoon gets off to a quick start against the Longhorns, I think he’ll ride that momentum to a solid first season. If nerves get to him early? It’s going to be a rocky road.
A few datapoints to suggest that the moment won’t be too big for Yoon: First, his ability to thrive under pressure at the Under Armour game. Secondly, his low-maintenance mechanics. When I watched him kick, I thought of a low-handicap, senior golfer. He has a simple swing that finds a lot of fairways. Lastly, I like that Yoon’s an athlete, not just a kicker. He was a high school hockey player, a sport that points to a variety of skills, so he’s not just some drone specialist with no versatility.
All in all, there’s no getting around the gamble the Irish are placing on Yoon. But you’d be hard pressed to find a better young prospect to put your hopes on.
Yoon’s on track to be one of Notre Dame’s all-time greats at the position, the opportunity to spend four years kicking in a high-powered offense matched with a low-maintence stroke and strong mental game. Even with an August admission that he’s struggled with his mechanics this camp, there’s no reason to think he can’t kick his way through a minor slump, considering he did the very same thing last year.
The confidence of surviving that moment should lead to bigger and better things—and more opportunities. The second-year kicker should be a key building block to the team.
I expect another rock-solid season for Yoon and more success on his point after attempts. While his field goal accuracy might dip a bit, it’ll likely be because Brian Kelly has more faith in trotting out his kicker, not because Yoon’s struggling.
With an active streak that’s the fourth-longest in school history, every field goal Yoon makes will improve upon the impressive start to his career. Getting off to a good start in Darrell K. Royal Memorial Stadium will go a long way towards making sure this season is a good one.
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