Equanimeous St. Brown met Chase Claypool on his official visit last December.
By that point Claypool had already been committed to Notre Dame for six months, so the oddity of a future freshman from Canada had worn off. And considering St. Brown has roots in Germany, grabbing an athlete from outside Vancouver barely qualified as international at all.
Still, St. Brown liked what he saw. Now everybody else around Notre Dame does too.
“He’s big, fast, physical,” St. Brown said. “It’s hard for freshmen to come into this program and get into the offense right away … I think we’re doing a good job of helping them.”
Claypool caught a 33-yard dart from DeShone Kizer last weekend and lined up as an attached tight end when he did it. He just missed a Hail Mary grab to end the first half too, the pass skipping off his fingers. A week earlier against Nevada he got his first career rush, catch and drop.
He’s logged 29 real offensive snaps through three games, including six last weekend.
“I think that's a guy we've got to look to get on the field more,” Kelly said. “He wasn't getting all the kinds of route running and comprehensive coverages and all the things he's got to make adjustments on in high school as he is now. This is a big leap for him.”
At 6-foot-4, 220 pounds and already playing two positions, there’s a lot to like about Claypool regardless of the competition he faced at Abbotsford High School in British Columbia, about an hour southeast of Vancouver. He accounted for 32 touchdowns as a senior, spread among receiving, rushing, passing and special teams.
His high school coaching staff once measured his vertical jump at 46 inches.
Competition level aside, another issue for Claypool may be St. Brown.
The sophomore has scored in all three games this season and is pushing Torii Hunter Jr. as Notre Dame’s best receiver. Claypool slots behind St. Brown at the X position, which typically lines up on the boundary (short) side of the field where it gets more straightforward coverages.
Unless St. Brown moves positions, it’s hard to get the sophomore and freshman on the field at the same time.
“We've had conversations with the staff to define a more expanded role for him,” Kelly said. “We've got to be careful with loading up too much on him.”
Claypool helps on special teams too, where he was part of the blocking scheme that freed C.J. Sanders for that nullified touchdown return last week. Aside from wiping out his man, Claypool nearly caught Sanders in full stride on the return while blowing by four Spartans and a couple teammates.
There’s little question the Irish have something special in the Canadian export.
Now it’s a matter of getting it on the field.
“Chase has grown up a lot,” Hunter said. “I didn’t know how much of a factor he would play in this year but he's definitely stepped up a lot. He's grown as a football player. He's still got some learning to do but he definitely has play-making ability down the field.”null