Donovonn Young: The next Mikel Leshoure?
Ask Bob Asmussen about Illinois' recruits here.
KATY, Texas – Early in his career, Donovonn Young was hearing from big schools. Texas and Oklahoma State expressed interest. Then, as a junior at Katy (Texas) High School, he broke his foot and missed the bulk of the season. And the Big 12 programs stopped paying attention.
"All those people who passed up on me, I hope I get to see them again," Young said.
The 5-foot-11, 215-pounder put up big numbers as a senior. He gained 2,309 yards and scored 36 touchdowns for the Texas power. That drew the attention of Illinois.
"This season showed me I could be something special," Young said. "I still can be the football player I always thought I could be."
Young watched the Illini at Rice Stadium during a Texas Bowl practice. He hadn't made a commitment yet, but the Illinois players were already treating him as one of their own.
"Most of the offensive players came and talked to me between drills," Young said. "Then, after practice, all of the offensive linemen came over and were like, 'We came to talk to our running back.' Once they did that I was pretty much sold."
Young was at the Texas Bowl and saw Mikel Leshoure play his final game as an Illini. Leshoure set the school's single-season rushing record.
In January, Leshoure decided to enter the NFL draft a year early. Which opens up a chance for Young to get early playing time.
Senior-to-be Jason Ford will enter the season as the likely starter. He has the support of Leshoure, who said he expects a productive season from Ford.
But Paul Petrino's offense needs more than one running back. Bud Golden and Troy Pollard are back. If he quickly learns the offense, Young can be on the field early.
Young's high school coach, Gary Joseph, thinks Illinois got a steal.
"People may have questioned his speed (as a junior), but this kid was playing with a broken foot," Joseph said. "This year, he had a lot of explosive runs. It's not like we played weak competition.
"I talked to a couple college coaches who came in here and asked them why not (Young). And they said the same thing, 'We already committed ourselves. Your kid had a better season.' "
Joseph said Young's academic ability (he was academic all-state) and personality will help him adapt to college.
"He's pretty well grounded," Joseph said.
Joseph has coached his share of college talent in 29 years, including TCU quarterback Andy Dalton.
"Donovonn is one of our better backs," Joseph said. "We've had quite a few."