Notebook: Freshman WR Michael Young catching on again for Notre Dame

Eric Hansen
South Bend Tribune

Another day, another newsy development for the Notre Dame wide receiver/tight end corps.

This time it’s good news.

Freshman wide receiver and Louisiana product Michael Young is surging at the right time for ND head coach Brian Kelly, whose 14th-ranked Irish (9-3) take on No. 16 LSU (9-3) Monday in the Citrus Bowl at Orlando, Fla.

“I think he’s had his best practices,” Kelly said of the 5-foot-10, 190-pounder after the Irish held their first post-Christmas practice session, Wednesday at Freedom High School in Orlando.

Young started August training camp in similar fashion, flashing potential both as an outside wide receiver and in the return game. But as the season got rolling, Young’s positive momentum seized.

The Destrehan High grad did see action in all 12 regular-season games but didn’t have a lot of stats to show for it — two catches for 10 yards, a rush for six and a kickoff return for 18.

“I think he’s shown a confidence level, a consistency level that maybe escaped him at times during the year,” Kelly said, “which is pretty typical of some of the younger players.

“But you can kind of see him settling into a more comfortable position right now, too. So I think we’re going to have to count on him to make some plays for us.”

Notre Dame’s passing game has lost three of its top four receivers in the past two weeks to injury (Chase Claypool) and suspension (Kevin Stepherson, Alizé Mack), and additionally lost to injury freshman tight end Brock Wright, who had acted as ND’s fullback in short-yardage and goal-line situations.

Suspended freshman running back C.J. Holmes, a seldom-used backup, is also out of the offensive mix for the bowl game.

Young, who LSU did not recruit, is listed as the No. 2 outside receiver on the wide side of the field, behind Equanimeous St. Brown, a position led by Stepherson before his he was suspended indefinitely because of recent arrests on consecutive days.

But Kelly plans on moving St. Brown, ND’s leading receiver, around to all three receiver positions against the Tigers and the nation’s No. 9 pass-efficiency defense. And when St. Brown moves into the slot or his familiar short-field position, Young will conceivably get his chances.

“Quite frankly, we’re going to have to throw the football at times against some man-to-man coverage,” Kelly said. “Let’s go back to where we were earlier in the season. Let’s talk about controlling the line of scrimmage, which is going to be key for us.

“We’re going to have to complete a couple balls here, in particular on the perimeter. If we do that, I think we’ll have a chance to put some points on the board.”

Wimbush revival?

It’s been five games since junior quarterback Brandon Wimbush completed more than 50 percent of his passes in a game (52.6 percent vs. N.C. State on Oct. 28).

And only once did he exceed 57 percent all season (70 percent Sept. 23 against a Michigan State pass-efficiency defense currently ranked 12th nationally).

December has been about trying to get his passing mojo going. And Kelly has liked what he’s seen of Wimbush Wednesday and some of the pre-Christmas sessions back in South bend leading up to the resumption of bowl practice.

“He’s played with a lot more carryover in terms of his practice,” Kelly said. “Drill work is starting to really show itself in the way he’s throwing the ball in 7-on-7 and his team work. A lot more consistency in what he’s doing.”

Wimbush on Wednesday downplayed the personnel shuffle at the receiver positions and praised in particular freshmen, wide receiver Michael Young and tight end Cole Kmet.

“Everybody says it, but I think it’s true here — next man in,” Wimbush said. “I think it’s come along in the manner that it’s needs to. We lost some weapons, but these guys have stepped up. I think you’ll see a more efficient passing game and a balanced offense come Jan. 1.”

Formal charges filed

Two University of Notre Dame football players were charged Wednesday after being arrested for shoplifting. Sophomore wide receiver Kevin Stepherson and freshman running back C.J. Holmes were arrested Dec. 15 for reportedly shoplifting from Macy's at University Park Mall in Mishawaka.

The two players were suspended indefinitely from all football-related activities.

Wednesday, Stepherson and Holmes were both charged with one Class A Misdemeanor count of conversion. Stepherson is scheduled to appear in court Jan. 29 and Holmes on Jan. 30.

On Dec. 15, a Macy's employee reportedly notified mall security that Stepherson and Holmes entered a changing room at the store, concealed clothing and tried to leave, according to a police report. Police stopped the two and recovered a $60 pair of Nautica sweatpants and an $80 Nautica sweatshirt.

Only a day before his shoplifting arrest, Stepherson was charged in Marshall County for possession of marijuana, a Class B Misdemeanor, and speeding and driving without a valid driver's license.

In Aug. 2016, Stepherson was also arrested in Fulton County for a Class A Misdemeanor of possession of marijuana. He pleaded guilty and was granted a conditional discharge in June.

“Once the game’s over, I’ll make a decision on his permanent status,” Kelly said Wednesday of Stepherson. “My focus right now, and the most important thing, is to win this football game.”

Squibs

After missing some practices last week because of a knee injury, LSU junior running back Derrius Guice has been back in action the past couple of days and is expected to play against the Irish on Monday.

The 5-11, 218-pounder has rushed for 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons for the Tigers.

LSU will stage one more practice in Baton Rouge, La., on Thursday, before traveling to Orlando late in the afternoon.

• Per The Baton Rouge Advocate, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards made a surprise visit to LSU’s practice on Tuesday to give a motivational speech to players. He even threw a few passes.

• LSU has held its last seven opponents to a combined 11 fourth quarter points — Florida (0), Auburn (0), Ole Miss (8), Alabama (3), Arkansas (0), Tennessee (0) and Texas A&M (0).

• Going back to the 2001 season, when LSU captured its first outright SEC title since 1986, the Tigers have fashioned a 70-8 record against non-conference opponents, with one of those eight losses coming to ND in the 2014 Music City Bowl.

• Notre Dame linebacker recruit Bo Bauer of Erie, Pa., made USA Today’s prep All-America first team, unveiled on Wednesday.

Notre Dame wide receiver Michael Young makes a catch during ND's 41-8 loss to Miami (Fla.), Nov. 11 in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/LYNNE SLADKY)