Ashton White slammed into Equanimeous St. Brown after he caught a pass in front of him on Tuesday. The shove sent St. Brown lurching out of bounds. Then the freshman receiver gave it right back to the rookie cornerback, who stumbled up the sidelines before the coaches called it off.
St. Brown wouldn’t be bullied, not at 6-foot-4, 205 pounds and not after being elevated to the second-team offense. After a dozen practices St. Brown doesn’t want to fit in with his class anymore during practice. He wants to move beyond it.
“He’s earned it,” said receivers coach Mike Denbrock. “He’s done a nice job.”
That includes in meeting rooms, where Denbrock quizzes St. Brown about formations and adjustments, asking the tri-lingual son of former Mr. Universe John Brown to rattle off the entire play call.
Consistently St. Brown gets it right, even to the surprise of his older teammates. It’s enough to think he might be an exception among freshman receivers under Brian Kelly considering Will Fuller, Corey Robinson and Chris Brown combined for 23 catches in their first years. Justin Brent and Corey Holmes didn’t even get targeted.
“We heard he’s fluent in a couple languages, so he’s got a lot of gears working up there,” said Chris Brown. “A lot of people go astray when their mental is not there. That’s almost half the game.”
St. Brown jumped Holmes on the depth chart Tuesday at the X position, meaning the backup spot to a potential All-American. That’s unlikely to turn into many game day reps, but it also means he’s ahead of last year’s freshman class that didn’t make an impact.
The size St. Brown offers intrigues the coaching staff, particularly Tuesday when he paired with the 6-foot-4 ½, 215-pound Robinson. The two worked in tandem on the second team.
“From a knowledge standpoint and understanding of the game, Equanimeous is further down the road than most freshmen that you deal with,” Denbrock said. “He’s a really smart kid anyway. From a knowledge standpoint he did a good job of picking everything up, but then with the advancement of his knowledge of the game overall, it’s kind of helped him accelerate the progress a little bit.”
Denbrock said Brown and Robinson are virtually equal at the W receiver position while Amir Carlisle and Torii Hunter Jr. should rotate in the slot. C.J. Sanders could be a wild card outside that group, a slot receiver who doesn’t know enough about the offense to be more than a bit player.
That’s fine by Denbrock.
If St. Brown is the only exception to the rule within the freshman receiver class, that still puts Notre Dame ahead of the game with that four-man haul that also includes Miles Boykin and Jalen Guyton.
“One of the things that’s good about the situation we have at wide receiver is you better perform or we’re gonna look at the next guy because there’s a lot of guys,” Denbrock said. “(St. Brown) has made plays all of fall camp.”