Irish sophomore kicker Justin Yoon enters the 2016 season on the heels of 12 consecutive successful field goal attempts. Quarterback DeShone Kizer caught and placed each of them.
But lucky attempt No. 13 for Yoon will instead be spotted by a fourth-string player making his college debut, in a hostile, prime time environment against the third winningest team in college football history.
The battery wasn’t broken, but Yoon wants to improve it.
“It was tough to decide to be honest with you because both are phenomenal holders and very responsible for what they do,” said Yoon of the competition between Kizer and new holder, junior quarterback Montgomery VanGorder.
“It was a close competition. Me being a kicker, I was picky, I guess. I need to be able to see the ball sometimes as fast as I can, and Gummy has that little, small advantage.”
An advantage that will allow VanGorder his first taste of big-time college football, at least sans the requisite red baseball cap he dons each Saturday as a member of the backup Irish quarterback brigade.
Irish Illustrated’s A-to-Z preview of Notre Dame’s roster continues with VanGorder, a junior set to make his collegiate debut at Texas in September.
In congress with snapper Scott Daly, aiding the cause for a perfect season by Yoon kicking extra points and something close to perfect regarding field goals. Yoon nailed 15 of 17 field goal attempts last season (ending the season with a dozen consecutive down the pipes) while making good on 50 of his 52 PAT, last missing in late September against UMass.
A poor hold when it matters – isn’t that ultimately what defines a holder’s efforts, a botched snap that occurs in a close loss?
Likewise, if VanGorder is shaky in his placement early and Yoon misses as a result, the trust built between the pair in the offseason could be difficult to regain.
A holder should never decide a football game, but Notre Dame’s contributed in part to that end in losses to Northwestern and Louisville in November 2014, plus a close call against Stanford earlier that season.
It’s difficult to recall a scholarship player (which VanGorder has been as both a freshman and sophomore) making his debut as a junior, though that could be the case for VanGorder’s classmate, offensive lineman Jimmy Byrne this fall as well.
How about the unique quality of having the son of a coach on the staff? Skip Holtz comes to mind as a walk-on for his legendary father in the mid-1980s.
As for a performance by a holder to aspire to for VanGorder this fall – mirroring DeShone Kizer’s 2015 season placing the pigskin would suffice, right?
DEVELOPMENT VS. RECRUITING RANKING
VanGorder’s offer list as a quarterback out of Buford High School (Buford, Ga.) included Murray State and Eastern Kentucky. He intended to join the program at Central Florida as a walk-on prior to his father, Brian, accepting the defensive coordinator position in South Bend.
VanGorder enrolled as a preferred walk-on but was awarded a scholarship prior to his freshman training camp.
If he holds for two seasons of Justin Yoon field goals and extra points, VanGorder will earn a pair of football monograms from the University of Notre Dame.
That beats Murray State…
VANGORDER AT HIS BEST
Apparently prior to and in the early stages of spring ball 2016, at least according to Yoon:
“What really prodded me was that Montgomery VanGorder, I could tell he wanted to be the holder. It was shown not only through his actions but coming to me, asking what can I do to become better. What time? When? How many times a week? He asked me for feedback and the only thing I could do was respond and think ‘Wow, this guy really wants this job.’”
QUOTE TO NOTE
“How he presents it. Literally, this much of a difference, .01, .02 seconds, just that difference makes me more confident in my ball-to-contact.” – Yoon on VanGorder’s placement of the football