Justin Yoon sets sights on Notre Dame kicking duties in 2015

Bob Wieneke
South Bend Tribune

The good news? Justin Yoon returned to the football field this fall after a freak back injury threatened to wipe out his senior season at Milton (Mass.) Academy.

The bad news? The nation’s top kicker according to 247Sports didn’t get in a ton of work.

Yoon plans to up his workload next fall at Notre Dame when he replacing graduating specialist Kyle Brindza.

“They asked me if I could come in and kick as a freshman,” the 5-foot-11, 185-pound Yoon said. “I said yes, so I think I have the spot but I have to show them that I’m that guy. I’m going to work hard on that.”

Yoon’s senior season was limited after the first game. With Yoon back to punt, his long-snapper sailed the ball over his head. Yoon chased it down and fell on it, but an opposing player’s knee drove into Yoon’s back.

“Kind of a freak accident,” he said.

Yoon made three of four field goals with a long of 49 yards. He connected on nine of 10 extra points while seven of his 15 kickoffs resulted in touchbacks. Two of Yoon’s final three games were played in muddy and windy conditions with temperatures topping out in the 30s.

Poor conditions are something he might have to get used to since South Bend won’t soon be confused with South Beach in terms of November (and sometimes October) weather. Yoon plans to work outside a few times before heading to the Under Armour All-America Game, which will be played Jan. 2 in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Luke Radke, an instructor at Kohl’s Kicking Camps, believes Yoon is ready for major college football. Yoon’s consistent approach is what other kickers at camps noticed about Yoon, and it’s also what Radke noticed.

“The kid’s a machine,” Radke said. “He kicks the same ball. Every. Single. Time.”

It wasn’t always that way this year for Notre Dame, Brindza's well-chronicled struggles including 10 missed field goals. Late misses contributed heavily in losses to Northwestern and Louisville.

“I’m feeling for him. I understand what he’s going through,” Yoon said. “It’s really a teamwork thing. You can’t just kick. It’s really about the guys on the front line, then the snap, then the hold. If none of those aren’t perfect, you can’t kick it perfectly.”

The Irish specialists will look dramatically different next year. Jack-of-all-trades Brindza is gone after the bowl game. Sophomore Tyler Newsome projects as the punter with Yoon a good bet to handle the place-kicking duties.

Kickoffs could come from either of those two. Walk-on John Chereson also figures in the equation.

“Hopefully I can do field goals and kickoffs, and whatever happens I’m just going to do my best,” Yoon said. “That’s all I can ask for—do my best. And if that’s my best, that’s my best.”

Kicker Justin Yoon could take over the place-kicking duties from Kyle Brindza next season. Photo provided/INTERSPORT