Notre Dame kicker recruit Justin Yoon in his own world

BOB WIENEKE
South Bend Tribune

Around the time Justin Yoon began dabbling as a kicker, middle school friends insisted that he had a strong future in the sport.

“They said, if I kept going at it, I’d get somewhere,” Yoon said. “I didn’t really know what that really meant, but I didn’t believe them either.”

He should have.

Yoon evolved into the nation’s top-rated kicker in 247Sports’ rankings for the 2015 class. And the “somewhere” his friends predicted was Notre Dame, the school to which he committed last month.

Yoon, who plays at Milton (Mass.) Academy, connected on 9 of 11 field goal attempts as a junior with a long of 48 yards. He also hit 38 of 39 extra-point tries, and 37 of his 53 kickoffs resulted in touchbacks.

His commitment was an important one since star Kyle Brindza is gone after this season. The options remaining are preferred walk-on John Chereson, who will be a sophomore, and incoming freshman Tyler Newsome.

A key in Yoon’s ascent has been his ability to stay mentally strong during kicks. Why he’s able to do that is still unclear to him.

“That’s a really good question,” he said. “I honestly can’t really tell you on that. The only thing I can tell you is, when the moment happens, I just get connected really well to a football. Deep down, I don’t think about anything else. I just focus on the football. It’s a different feeling, different thought process. It’s like I’m in my own world.”

Yoon visited ND earlier this summer, when he received an offer, and again shortly before his commitment. The time on campus gave him a chance to connect with Brindza.

“It was a very important key role into my decision because he really made me feel comfortable and feel like specialists belong here,” Yoon said.

Brindza too was highly regarded as a high school kicker. Yoon is learning to deal with the expectations.

“That puts a lot of pressure, honestly,” Yoon said. “Not many people can say you’re the No. 1 kicker. It’s a tough position, but I’ve got to keep pushing as long as I can, and do my best.”

New rankings

A pair of recruiting services updated their player rankings following Nike’s The Opening camp earlier this month. Both Scout and 247Sports released the new rankings this week.

Scout ranked six of Notre Dame’s 17 commitments in its top 300, all receiving four-star ratings.

Tristen Hoge (No. 39 overall, No. 2 OG), Shaun Crawford (No. 70 overall, No. 8 CB), Josh Barajas (No. 78 overall, No. 8 OLB), Miles Boykin (No. 171 overall, No. 23 WR), Jerry Tillery (No. 179 overall, No. 15 OT), and Elijah Taylor (No. 209 overall, No. 18 DT) made the list.

247Sports also designated six Irish commits for its top 247.

Tillery (No. 77 overall, No. 7 OT), Hoge (No. 105 overall, No. 1 C), Crawford (No. 152 overall, No. 16 CB), Barajas (No. 158 overall, No. 2 ILB), Josh Adams (No. 171 overall, No. 17 RB), and C.J. Sanders (No. 226 overall, No. 27 WR) landed on the 247Sports list.

Notre Dame’s class came in as No. 6 nationally, according to Scout, behind Alabama, Texas A&M, Auburn, Penn State and Clemson. 247Sports slates the Irish No. 8 nationally.

- Staff writer Tyler James contributed to this report.

BWieneke@SBTinfo.com | 574-235-6428 | Twitter: @BobWienekeNDI

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Massachusetts kicker Justin Yoon commited to Notre Dame on Tuesday, June 24. (Photo provided)