A Matter of Trust

Sophomore kicker ranks among the nation’s best but training camp 2016 didn’t go according to plan.

Justin Yoon concluded his freshman season drilling 12 consecutive field goals, the fourth best streak in the history of Notre Dame Football.

But he missed a few this August, and since it happens to be August, and media was present for one particularly poor outing (2-for-6), and since football is king around here, well, therein lies the rub.

“It’s gone a lot better this week,” offered Yoon of previous misses including four straight to end a session. “Last week I was working a lot on my form, routine, because I knew I was off somewhere. That’s all I was working on. I haven’t thought about making or missing kicks at all. That matters in games.

“I’ve come to a solid point where I can say I’m very confident. It’s just a matter of getting ready for Texas now. Be in that routine.”

Yoon struggled at the outset of his collegiate career as well, missing either a field goal or extra point in each of his first four games last fall. It was a far cry from the kicker head coach Brian Kelly lauded throughout August Camp 2015, and nowhere near what Irish fans expected from Yoon, the nation’s top ranked kicker in his class.

And then he didn’t miss again.

Thirty-four straight extra points and a dozen consecutive field goals and counting with a 46-yarder at Clemson and a 52-yard boot at the halftime gun against Navy intermixed. The latter was two yards shy of tying a program record. As for the former in Tigers Country?

“Big monsoon, I guess everything else isn’t as bad,” said Yoon of the first of 12 straight field goals he’s nailed since September’s slump. “It took me four games. (At first in front of) 100 people, now I have 80,000 looking at me, that’s a big difference,” he admitted. “After a couple of games I thought ‘Hey, it’s not so bad.’”

Neither is an innocuous August slump.

“They’re always supporting me,” Yoon said of the field goal unit. “They believe in me. Another impact person is Coach Kelly. He knows what I can do. Everyone knows what I can do; it’s a matter of how I can get to that point again.

“Coach Kelly knows that. It’s a matter of how I am pushed to that limit and make sure that I can be ready for that stage.”

New to that stage is Yoon’s holder, backup quarterback Montgomery VanGorder. After 13 games with DeShone Kizer placing his kicks, Yoon chose VanGorder in what he deemed last spring as a competition that came down to a miniscule difference.

“It’s how he presents (the ball),” said Yoon of VanGorder last spring. “Literally, this much of a difference, .01, .02 seconds, just that difference makes me more confident in my ball-to-contact.”

That confidence remains intact. 

“It’s just a matter of trust,” Yoon says of the current battery. “If I can trust whoever is holding for me, it’s my confidence and ability to believe in myself, but also (long-snapper) Scott (Daly) and Montgomery VanGorder.

“Now that I know what they’re capable of doing, and seeing their mental reps over and over again, and talking to them. I trust them, they trust me, and that’s all that matters.”

Along with splitting the uprights when it’s no longer August.

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