Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 8, 2018*

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 18 of 55 OCT. 8, 2018 19 BY LOU SOMOGYI N otre Dame's passing game found a spark at Wake Forest with junior quarterback Ian Book making his first start this season. Now it's a matter of stok‑ ing it with more flames. It begins with sophomore Michael Young and freshman Kevin Austin augmenting the veteran wideout triumvirate of Miles Boykin, Chris Finke and Chase Claypool, plus tight end Alizé Mack. Against the Demon Deacons, it was Young who helped break open a 21‑13 game by taking a screen 66 yards to begin a 28‑0 onslaught by the Irish. Austin later grabbed two passes for 34 yards to aid a corps that also moved sophomore Isaiah Rob‑ ertson and freshman Joe Wilkins Jr. from defense to find more answers in an offense that would regularly like to rotate six to eight wideouts in a game. (Another freshman, speedster Braden Lenzy, has been in concus‑ sion protocol since the week of the Vanderbilt game.) "We've been begging for it," Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said of building depth at receiver. "We've just been trying to get guys to emerge — there's a lot of running, a lot of tempo, a lot of pace." The pace has especially picked up for the 5‑10, 185‑pound Young and the 6‑2, 210‑pound Austin as the fourth and fifth wideouts in the rotation. A year ago as a freshman, the Louisiana native Young wowed the coaching staff with his explosiveness in August camp before hitting a pla‑ teau mentally and physically. "I wanted to make an impression on the coaches fast," Young recalled. "Luckily, I was able to do that. The problem with me was that it was the little things I was messing up on … not being consistent with my align‑ ment. Instead of being on top of the numbers, I was a yard inside the numbers — things like that on cer‑ tain routes are very critical, because they're timing routes. "I was in shape, but my body, my legs, there were days when I just felt I couldn't explode the way I wanted to. Being a freshman, you kind of complain, 'I can't really do this. I can't really do that. I'm too sore' — and that's where I started to hit the freshman wall. I was letting the fa‑ tigue get to me." After getting briefly away from the grind of the regular season, he found his second wind during the bowl preparation versus his home‑ state LSU Tigers. Overshadowed by Boykin's sensational 55‑yard catch and run from a Book pass for the game‑winning score in the closing minutes was that earlier in the fourth quarter Young adjusted his route in the end zone to snare a third‑down bullet from Book to help knot the score at 14. "The best experience I've ever had so far in my life," Young said of that score against the Tigers. "It was kind of tough to just take a back seat and watch everything, but toward the end of the season the attitude started changing again. I was like, 'I have to go. I just have to show what I did earlier, and this time no complaints, no nothing, just all out.'" At the game was Young's uncle Jo‑ seph Addai, a former LSU star and first‑round pick who rushed for 4,453 career yards and 39 touchdowns dur‑ ing his six‑year career with the India‑ napolis Colts (2006‑11), highlighted by a 1,000‑yard rookie season while winning the Super Bowl. "He's been very instrumental in my life," Young said. "He talks to me every day when things are going bad. 'Hey, keep your head up. I went through the same things … just keep working.'" The down times hit again in the spring when a concussion slowed Young's progress after displaying in a few open sessions the best deep‑ ball skills on the roster. A groin injury in the summer also hampered his growth in August before starting to round back into form. That has shown by the staff want‑ ing to get him involved in other areas such as kickoff returns or jet sweep runs. Young had been lobbying — even nagging — special teams coor‑ dinator Brian Polian for the kickoff return job that was wide open with at least a half‑dozen candidates, but Polian first wanted to see Young fully healthy in order to utilize his burst. Once Young started working in with the top unit the week of the Vander‑ bilt game … "I told him, 'I'd give you a big kiss right now if we weren't at practice,'" Young said of Polian. "He started laughing and said, 'Okay, don't dis‑ appoint me.'" A 48‑yard kick return at a cru‑ cial time in a tight 22‑17 win versus Vanderbilt once again highlighted Young's capabilities in the open field. "I think a lot of times guys get caught up in that they're given their freedom back there and they want to do too much, just because they want to impress," Young said of his approach on kickoffs. "Just find the first vertical seam, make one cut and go." As for Young's early jet sweep at Wake Forest that resulted in a fum‑ ble, Kelly and offensive coordinator Chip Long made Young "get back on the horse" after the early spill with the 66‑yard catch and run. "Other than me tackling Chip be‑ cause he wanted to go strangle him, no," Kelly said of becoming reluc‑ tant to get Young involved again in the game. "… He was obviously shook up a little bit, but he's a young player. Young guys gotta get back out there. I just said, leave him alone, get him back in the game. "Now, if he did it again, he can have a conversation with me. Then he goes to the principal's office." For now, the receiving/rushing/ return school for Young is in full ses‑ sion, and the youngster is gradually catching on to make the grade. ✦ CATCHING UP Michael Young is emerging among the next wave of developing Notre Dame receivers Against Wake Forest, Young hauled in a 66-yard reception for his first catch of the year. PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA

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