A name like Equanimeous St. Brown gets the attention of any audience but when that collective group encompasses Notre Dame football fans, college football fans in general and NFL scouts, recognition goes off the charts. The simple reason is that Brown 2016’s performance showed that he can be a dynamic presence on the field by grabbing 58 passes for 961 yards and scoring nine times.
That effort came after a quiet freshman campaign in which Brown only saw action in seven games, with just one eight-yard catch to his credit. Combining that with play on special teams, he saw his season abruptly come to an end following a shoulder injury.
Brown had come to South Bend after a spirited recruiting war that pitted Brian Kelly and his staff against the likes of LSU. Southern Cal and Stanford. The Anaheim-based Brown ultimately chose to bypass the nearby Trojans, while his mother preferred the relatively-close surroundings of Palo Alto.
What Brown brings to the field is great size and speed, a combination that never goes out of style. At 6-5, he has the ability to dominate when going up against smaller corners, while his speed can make it difficult for some in the secondary to keep up. Throw into the mix a work ethic that’s helped condition his hands to snag anything within his reach, courtesy of his home JUGS machine, and you have a major talent.
A 2016 Breakout
Despite last season’s disappointment, Brown did manage to stand out by becoming Deshone Kizer’s favorite target. During the opener at Texas, he grabbed five passes for 75 yards and scored twice in the wild overtime clash. Yet instead of building on that promising beginning, he ended up with five games where he grabbed four or fewer passes and never caught more than seven in a game.
Brown’s production potential was most evident in the Meadowlands contest against Syracuse, with a mere four catches accounting for 182 yards of offense and two more scores. Within that group were touchdown grabs of 79 and 67 yards that gave Notre Dame their first two tallies of the game.
The Perfect Marriage?
One key difference this season is the addition of Chip Long as the Irish offensive coordinator. While he’s only in his second season as an OC, his contributions during 11 previous seasons in building some high-powered offenses that could aggressively push the tempo served as a key reason why Kelly hired him away from Memphis.
Long developed a knack for being able to create mismatches, which is something that can provide a huge boost to the lanky Brown. The 2016 offense saw the wideout grab nearly half of his passes for the year on first down, with the expectation for this season being a little more expansive.
One of the few things that might conceivably stall Brown’s progress is the team’s expected signal caller, Brandon Wimbush, suffering growing pains. The two have no game experience working together, yet the expectation is that once Wimbush gets comfortable behind center, Brown will thrive.
Another is Long’s background working with tight ends, a department that’s struggled the past two seasons and one that he’s likely to try and jump-start. Of course, ignoring a talent like Brown in the process of re-establishing the Irish legacy of strong tight end production would be foolhardy, something that Long will certainly avoid.
That means that Brown will be a centerpiece of the receiving unit, which has a number of raw talents to join him on offense. If they manage to grow as expected, he could conceivably see his pass numbers dip. Regardless of that development phase, Brown will still be the deep threat to watch.
The Potential Ticking Clock
The fact that Brown can actually improve on his 2016 numbers is something that should bring a smile to Kelly’s face, yet it’s something that can also shorten the wide receiver’s tenure under the Golden Dome. That’s because the NFL will be beckoning, with millions of dollars that offer a clear enticement to declare for the 2018 Draft.
Right now, some debate exists about whether or not Brown would be selected in the first round, the reason being that scouts only have one season to gauge his performance. Yet the always-nebulous aspect of potential is something that offers enough intrigue to make a similar effort by Brown in 2017 a precursor to him leaving South Bend.
Still, Brown and his family do put a premium on education, so a pending departure may not necessarily be etched in stone. However, money has a way of changing that equation, so it’s probably just best to hope for Brown to have a monster year and live with his ultimate decision at a later date.