Freshman wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown will play inside and outside for USC football, hoping to walk in the footsteps of Trojan greats like Robert Woods and JuJu Smith-Schuster.
As anxiously awaited as JT Daniels’ USC football practice debut was on Friday, the arrival of fellow Mater Dei standout Amon-Ra St. Brown may have an even bigger impact on the Trojan offense in 2018.
St. Brown, a five-star receiver recruit, took the field in his new No. 8 jersey and impressed teammates and coaches. But he wasn’t exactly in the spot many anticipated.
Coming into Fall Camp, St. Brown was expected to battle with Velus Jones Jr. and Trevon Sidney for the open starting job in the slot. That may still be his best bet to earn an official starting job, but it’s not necessarily the role the Trojans have planned for him.
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The gifted pass catcher won’t be labeled a slot guy at USC.
“We like him everywhere,” offensive coordinator Tee Martin said.
The slot label came in part because high school recruiting services like 247Sports list St. Brown at 5-foot-11. That’s a height most suited to an inside receiver. The Trojan roster, however, has him listed at a much more outside-friendly 6-foot-1.
Independent measurement may be required to know his accurate height, but Helton praised the freshman for his physical stature. Whatever he stands in feet and inches, he fluctuates between 195 and 200 pounds, bringing an element of power and strength to his game.
“He has the physical presence to play outside but he has little man skills,” Helton said.
On Day 1 of Fall Camp, his inside-outside skill set was fostered. During passing drills he operated behind Tyler Vaughns on the outside. During 7-on-7 and 11-on-11, he lined up all over the field, sometimes in the slot, sometimes outside.
Versatility has been a hallmark of USC’s best and brightest at the wide receiver spot in recent years. This spring Helton commended Vaughns for his “little man skills” as well.
When it comes to St. Brown, Helton and Martin threw out lofty comparisons for the Mater Dei star as the next to follow in the footsteps of Robert Woods, Nelson Agholor and JuJu Smith-Schuster, receivers who defied labels.
“If you remember what we did with JuJu, Nelson and Woody, we never tagged them as outside receiver or inside receiver because we never wanted anybody to find our best guys,” said Helton.
If St. Brown’s future resembles anything like Woods, Agholor and Smith-Schuster’s, great things are to come. Woods is USC’s all-time leading pass catcher while the latter two rank Top 10.
It’s up to St. Brown to live up to those comparisons and on Day 1 he took his first steps in that direction. Along with fellow freshman receiver Devon Williams, he was held up as one of the youngsters to make the biggest impression on Helton.
“They didn’t look like freshmen, physically or how they played. They were not big-eyed. It looked like they felt comfortable in the moment,” Helton said.
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Having hit the ground running, St. Brown is now ready to climb.