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Notre Dame 99-to-2: No. 87 Michael Young, receiver

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Listed Measurements: 5-foot-10, 192 pounds
2018-19 year, eligibility: Sophomore with three seasons of eligibility remaining, including 2018.
Depth chart: Young should start as the field receiver, a position where he can best use his speed and strong hands to challenge an isolated cornerback.
Recruiting: A consensus three-star recruit, Young was one of only two receivers to arrive at Notre Dame in the class of 2017, a late de-commitment leading to the subsequent addition of Jafar Armstrong. With Armstrong now a running back/receiver hybrid, Young is the sole full-time pass-catcher left in the class, an important fact to remember as four strongly-recruited freshmen receivers join the ranks.

CAREER TO DATE
Young played in all 13 games as a freshman, but finished with only four catches for 18 yards and one touchdown, adding one rush for six yards and 18 kick return yards on one chance. As injuries depleted the Irish receivers corps before the Citrus Bowl, Young’s opportunity presented itself. He made the relative most of it, catching the touchdown pass from Ian Book which first tied LSU in the fourth quarter.

QUOTE(S)
While Young saw playing time throughout his freshman season, it took some time for him to produce on the field. Notre Dame receivers coach Del Alexander pointed to a bit of a freshman wall as having slowed Young between preseason practice and his late-season development.

“[Young] showed his talents early in [2017 preseason] camp,” Alexander said in late March. “Sometimes it is hard to sustain the drive and the grit to get to the end of the season. He was able to self-evaluate, take a good look in the mirror, say I have more, and he was capable of doing this. He was able in the second half of the season to push again and to find opportunities.”

That freshman wall was both a physical and a mental hindrance.

“He wasn’t as open to coaching, he didn’t see things as clearly,” Alexander said. “As time went on and he became more and more eager to play, he started to listen a little more, and that helped him see more. That freed his game up where he was able to make more plays.”

WHAT WAS PROJECTED A YEAR AGO
“Notre Dame enjoys depth at the receiver position. It will be difficult for Young to crack that this season. Defaulting to a season preserving eligibility seems too simple an answer, even if it is unlikely Young contributes to the offense in a meaningful manner.

“Special teams coordinator Brian Polian publicly wished for more options for his coverage units this spring. Young could help fill that void, and while he is spending the eligibility, chip in offensively in spot duty.

“The slot might be the thinnest of the Irish receiving positions, especially if the cloud around [former Notre Dame receiver Kevin] Stepherson turns out to be more than idle speculation. At that point, having Young in the rotation could prove useful.”

2018 OUTLOOK
With the exception of the incoming freshmen, specifically Braden Lenzy, Young provides the best and arguably singular top-end speed among the Irish receivers. Senior Chris Finke is very quick and senior Miles Boykin has underrated burst, but Young’s ability to alter an opposing secondary’s coverage is unparalleled at this point. Notre Dame will need that.

Projecting specific statistical benchmarks is difficult since they depend so much on the Irish quarterbacks’ development. More importantly than predicting a floor (perhaps 25 catches for 400 yards and five touchdowns), a consistent season would help with the passers’ progress. A year ago, Notre Dame’s receivers were just as up-and-down as quarterback Brandon Wimbush was. If Young can prove to be a productive option week-in and week-out, that safety valve could do wonders for the passing game as a whole.

Admittedly, the same thing can, should and will be said about Boykin, although with a higher floor considering his advantage in experience and greater spring praise from the Irish coaches.

DOWN THE ROAD
Few receivers end up as three-year starters. Young may have that ahead of him. By the tail end of that, he would be one of the most-established receivers during Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly’s entire tenure.

A sub-six-foot receiver with three seasons of starts? That sounds a lot like TJ Jones, who racked up 37 starts across his four seasons, finishing with 2,429 yards and 19 touchdowns on 181 receptions in 51 games. His senior season is often overlooked despite its stellar nature, catching 70 passes for 1,108 yards and nine touchdowns.

If Young ever puts together a year like that, it will be noticed. That may be an ideal scenario, but a 40-start career, be it that actual number or only figuratively-speaking, will produce numbers at some point or another.

NOTRE DAME 99-to-2:
No. 99 Jerry Tillery, defensive tackle, senior
No. 97 Micah Dew-Treadway, defensive tackle, senior
No. 95 Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, defensive tackle, sophomore
No. 94 Darnell Ewell, defensive tackle, sophomore
No. 93 (theoretically) Ja’Mion Franklin, defensive tackle, incoming freshman
No. 91 Ade Ogundeji, defensive end, junior
No. 90 (theoretically) Tommy Tremble, tight end, incoming freshman
No. 89 Brock Wright, tight end, sophomore
No. 88 Javon McKinley, receiver, junior