Michael Young, a 5-foot-11, 178-pound wide receiver out of Destrehan High School in Louisiana, made a proactive decision Wednesday night when he announced his anticipated verbal commitment to Notre Dame, becoming the 17th to pledge to the Fighting Irish in the Class of 2017.
The news out of Louisiana was as much a statement as it was an announcement.
The bus is filling up fast. Better jump on board.
Young is the second three-star wide receiver to verbally commit to the Irish, joining Jordan Pouncey (Winter Park, Fla.), who was the second of seven prospects to pledge to the Irish in the last five weeks.
When you consider running back C.J. Holmes’ high school teammate – wide receiver Tarik Black, who won’t announce until January but is a strong lean to the Irish – and Equanimeous St. Brown’s brother Osiris, one might think Notre Dame’s wide receiver recruiting is heading into the home stretch with four-stars Hezekiah Jones (Stafford, Texas) and Jeremiah Holloman (Covington, Ga.) as well as five-star Joseph Lewis (Los Angeles, Calif.) still out there.
But there remains work to be done.
The Irish will always find room for an additional game-breaking receiver or two, but the math is the math and there are a lot of positions to fill on both sides of the football. The Irish now have nine commitments projected on offense and eight on defense
Young – Scout’s No. 71 receiver in the country – is an appropriately-rated three-star prospect whose speed has been clocked in the 4.6s. That number is a bit deceiving because Young is a slot receiver whose quickness is a more accurate indicator of his prowess than his 40 time.
Young is elusive in short spaces, which is what makes him a match for the slot (Z) position in Brian Kelly’s offensive scheme. He is a quick, “jittery” player in traffic with the latter of the two descriptions a positive, not a negative.
He’s jittery in the sense that he is a difficult for a defensive player to gauge/corral. Young is elusive in traffic. It’s difficult for a defender to anticipate his next move. He has a natural sense for finding creases within the second level, which allows him to escape pursuit and get to the third level.
Young displays very sharp cuts in his pass routes. When he puts a foot in the ground, it usually leads to a very emphatic, decisive cut, which defensive backs have to respect.
Downfield routes are not the most developed aspect of his game, which is typical of a slot receiver. But that sharp, decisive foot in the ground propels him on slant routes so that by the time he makes the catch, he slingshots past a defensive back and is quickly in full gallop.
His strength at the present time is running a quick stop- or out-route and then allowing his elusiveness and athleticism to get him the yards. He is all about yards after the catch.
The precision of downfield route-running is an aspect that will have to be developed over time, although the slot allows for a shorter transition period on the next level while his decisive cuts allow him to be particularly effective on slants.
One can’t help but be impressed with Young’s toughness when it comes to being a physical player in the passing game as a willing, tenacious downfield blocker. He aggressively attacks his blocks, and once he engages a defender, he churns his feet and gets notable push.
There are receivers who block and there are receivers who relish the opportunity to block. Young is in the latter category.
It’s no coincidence that a huge portion of his highlight film includes a large helping of blocks that display his aggressive nature. He provides an added bonus in that he’ll break down as a blocker off the snap – which the opponent has to respect – and then fly by the secondary on a delayed go-route.
From a blocking standpoint, he’ll fit in very well with Mike Denbrock’s crew, which played an instrumental role in frequently springing running backs C.J. Prosise and Josh Adams for long runs in ’15.
As a bonus, Young also offers a punt return background where that sharp plant of the foot and his jittery nature in traffic are essential ingredients to being a special teams asset.
Young is a different kind of receiver than Pouncey, so comparisons aren’t necessarily applicable. But Young appears to be a more dangerous weapon on offense than Pouncey, who is a receiver with size and downfield capability while showing himself to be more of an on-the-ground receiver.
Young should be capable of adding big-play ability from the slot, which sophomore C.J. Sanders has but has yet to show it in game situations. Pouncey has not shown the go-up-and-make-a-play capability downfield that is so critical to the Kelly offense.
That’s just one reason why there remains work to be done recruiting receivers for the Class of 2017.