St. Brown Looking For Bowl Win Before Making An NFL Decision
The 2017 season certainly hasn’t gone the way junior wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown wanted it to go. After hauling in a team leading 58 catches for 961 yards and nine touchdowns as a sophomore, it was expected that St. Brown would become one of the nation’s top pass catchers.
That never happened, as St. Brown struggled through the season, catching just 31 passes for 468 yards and four scores. St. Brown will end his junior season against arguably the best secondary he and the Irish offense will face all season.
To make matters worse for St. Brown, Notre Dame will play this game without its second, third and fourth leading pass catchers on the season. St. Brown will have to be at his best against a talented and productive LSU secondary.
“I’m always trying to step up and be the best I can,” St. Brown said Thursday following Notre Dame’s Dec. 28 practice. “Nothing really changes for me other than I’m moving around more and playing some other positions, but it’s an opportunity for the other guys to show what they can do. They’ve been waiting patiently and working hard, so it’s a good opportunity for the other wide receivers to get a chance and make plays.”
St. Brown and the Notre Dame offense will need other players to step up. Senior tight end Durham Smythe could be a bigger part of the pass game against LSU, but players like junior Miles Boykin and senior Cam Smith will be counted on to replace the lost production.
“We always have the mentality of next guy in,” St. Brown said of the losses. “If someone gets hurt or something happens to somebody, the next guy has to be ready. It’s unfortunate what happened, but we have receivers and somebody is going to step up.”
What happened, of course, was the loss of sophomores Chase Claypool and Kevin Stepherson. Claypool injured a shoulder during bowl prep while Stepherson was recently arrested and suspended from the team. Junior tight end Alizé Mack was also suspended for the game.
With over a week of practice from the time of the losses to the bowl game, Notre Dame has been fortunate to have time to prepare the replacements for this opportunity, and St. Brown is encouraged by what he has seen.
“Guys have to step and I think they have been,” continued St. Brown. “I think everyone comes here ready to play, and now they have an opportunity to go show what they’ve been doing all these years. All the work they’ve put in, it’s time to show it off and I think guys will step up.”
One player that head coach Brian Kelly noted as someone who has stepped in during bowl preparations is freshman Michael Young, a native of Louisiana. St. Brown also likes what he sees from the athletic young wideout.
“He’s definitely a good receiver and a good kid too,” St. Brown noted. “He’s a really quick, explosive kind of player. He’s been making big plays and practicing really well, so I’m expecting big things from him.”
The injuries and suspension at wide receiver don’t just put more pressure on St. Brown, it also puts a greater burden on the shoulders of junior quarterback Brandon Wimbush. There were some brilliant moments for Wimbush this season, but there were frustrating times as well, especially in November.
It seems the time away has done well for Wimbush and the rest of the Irish offense, which averaged just 17.3 points in the final three games of the season.
“I think the time off from game weeks has definitely given him time to improve his game,” St. Brown said of his signal caller. “I think the whole offense is looking better … I think we’re making strides.”
Following the game St. Brown will have a tough decision to make. He must decide whether he wants to return for his senior season or leave early and head for the NFL. According to the native of Anaheim, Calif. a decision has yet to be made.
“I haven’t made my mind up yet,” St. Brown said of his decision regarding next season. “I’m going to see how the game goes and then talk to my parents … I haven’t been thinking about it. It’s a tough decision, I haven’t made my mind up.”
St. Brown’s father – former Mr. Universe and Mr. World John Brown – has been very vocal about his desire to see his son leave for the NFL, but he has also made it clear that the decision will ultimately belong to Equanimeous.
“That’s him, but that’s not me. That’s his opinion,” St. Brown said of his father’s comments about his future. “He said it’s still my decision on what I want to do and it’s up to me. It’s my life, and he tells me that on a regular basis, but he has his own opinion as well.”
Kelly has made his pitch to St. Brown about coming back, and there is still plenty of room for improvement for the 6-5 pass catcher.
“His main point was there’s a lot to gain from coming back,” St. Brown said of Kelly’s pitch. “There’s a lot of areas to improve, and you’re only going to go up.”
We’ll find out over the next month whether or not Kelly’s pitch worked. The deadline to declare for the NFL Draft is Jan. 15.