Notre Dame transfer receiver Michael Young eager to reunite with Denbrock at Cincinnati

Eric Hansen
South Bend Tribune

The man who first helped Michael Young fall in love with Notre Dame also played a large role in the transferring Irish wide receiver becoming smitten with his new landing spot.

Mike Denbrock.

The former Irish offensive coordinator, associate head coach and wide receivers coach when he recruited Young from St. Rose, La., never got a chance to coach him at ND.

But he will at Cincinnati, the school Young announced on Easter Sunday that he’d be resuming his college football career with, when the Bearcats open their 2020 season.

Presumably, that remains a Sept. 3 home game with Austin Peay.

Denbrock has been UC’s offensive coordinator the past three seasons. The Bearcats were a combined 22-5 in 2018 and 2019.

Young, who entered into the transfer portal last October in the midst of ND’s 11-2 season, chose UC over Northwestern. The 5-10, 190-pounder had also considered Vanderbilt and Oklahoma State during his re-recruitment.

“Coach Denbrock being at Cincinnati was huge in this process,” Young said in a phone interview Sunday shortly after announcing his decision on Twitter.

“When Notre Dame started recruiting me my junior year, the relationship between me and coach Denbrock built throughout that process and was significant. He made an impact on me and my family.

“It was also always more than football with him. He actually took time out to get to know me as a person — what I like, what I don’t like. Always asking about my family, always asking about school.

“And when I got back into the (transfer) portal, he was one of the first coaches who reached out to me. From that moment, we just picked up where we left off. That’s huge, especially at a time like that, where I was unsure and didn’t know how the (transfer) recruiting process was going to go and things like that.”

Young came to Notre Dame as a three-star recruit out of Destrehan (La.) High in the 2017 class. He chose the Irish over Texas A&M and Oregon. He was high school teammates with LSU wide receiver Justin Jefferson, who caught 111 passes for 1,540 yards and 18 touchdowns for national champion LSU last season.

Young played in all 26 games of his first two seasons at Notre Dame. He caught 11 passes for 156 yards and two touchdowns as a freshman and sophomore. Then he broke his collarbone in August and missed the first three games of the 2019 season.

He returned Sept. 28 against Virginia, started the next week against Bowling Green, then played in a reserve role Oct. 12 against USC. He had a combined six catches for 21 yards in that stretch.

But after an open date the following Saturday, Young didn’t make the road trip for an Oct. 26 matchup with Michigan.

Two days later, he was in the portal. Because Young played in only three games as a junior, it qualifies as a redshirt season. So he’ll have two years of eligibility at Cincinnati with no sitting-out period, as a grad transfer.

“The reason I decided to leave is because I felt like I needed more opportunity,” Young said. “Even the media would say, ‘Why isn’t Mike Young getting the ball?’ The coaches spoke highly of me, but it didn’t match up with my opportunities in the games.”

Young will get his Notre Dame diploma in the mail sometime next month. The film, television and theater major has one more class to take at ND during the first session of summer school, which will take place online.

“I’ve got only good things to say about Notre Dame and my teammates,” he said. “I’m a team-first guy, always and ever will be. But as far as feeling like I was a contributor, despite that we were winning. I didn’t feel like I was doing much.

“I was assignment-correct and I was busting my butt, but I wasn’t a factor. I think after a while, it kind of took a toll on me and I felt like I needed a change of scenery.”

Wide receiver Michael Young (87) tries to avoid a tackle by Virginia’s Bryce Hall (34) during the ND-Virginia game on Sept. 28. Young announced Sunday that he’ll be completing his transfer to Cincinnati.