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The Journal Gazette

  • Associated Press Notre Dame wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown led the Irish in receptions, receiving yards and touchdown catches last season as a sophomore.

Friday, August 25, 2017 1:00 am

Irish receiver craves consistency

St. Brown looking to better his impressive numbers as a junior

CHRIS GOFF | The Journal Gazette

SOUTH BEND – What do you do after a breakout season? If you're Equanimeous St. Brown, your answer is try to do even more.

St. Brown joined elite company in 2016 when he led Notre Dame in receptions (58), receiving yards (961) and receiving touchdowns (nine). Previous players to lead the Irish in all three categories include past All-Americans Golden Tate, Jeff Samardzija, Raghib Ismail, Tim Brown and Ken MacAfee, as well as current NFL players Will Fuller and Michael Floyd.

What about a 75-catch, 1,100-yard season? It has happened only four times in school history. Tom Gatewood did it in 1970, Samardzija in 2005, Tate in 2009 and Floyd in 2011. Perhaps St. Brown can reach those marks this season.

Notre Dame's No. 1 wide receiver is unequivocal about his goal, insisting there must be another level to his game.

“Have a much better year than last year,” St. Brown said. “I need to get more physical.”

What separates great receivers from good ones is consistency. While St. Brown had two 100-yard games in 2016, he was a non-factor three times. Against North Carolina State, Stanford and Army, he was limited to nine catches, 102 yards and no touchdowns.

New position coach DelVaughn Alexander didn't hesitate when asked about the next step in St. Brown's progression.

“Consistency,” Alexander said. “You can have a breakout season, but ... then there are more things you have to learn and adjust to.”

Alexander, a veteran of 15 seasons as a wide receivers coach, replaced Mike Denbrock in January and gladly inherited a receiving corps that revolves around the 6-foot-5, 203-pound junior.

“The breadwinner here from last year is EQ, and you base success on those stats,” Alexander said. “Now we're basing success on the little things, the traits (Irish) coach (Brian) Kelly has established and the daily grind.”

St. Brown is becoming a smarter player. A more detailed player, too. The California native seems wary of the dangers of relying too much on his natural talent.

With the help of his new position coach, St. Brown enjoyed a solid offseason and is having an “outstanding” training camp, according to Alexander.

“At first, he was different to get used to,” St. Brown said. “He's grown on me. He's a great receivers coach. Puts in a lot of time. I can tell by all the things he knows about every receiver, details he knows about us, the way he knows plays from before he got here.

“I think he's more detailed in his work (than Denbrock) when it comes to being a receiver. I think he's more knowledgeable when it comes to the technique of being a wide receiver.”

Asked for a specific example of his next frontier, the little things that will take him to the next level, St. Brown cited his desire to be a devastating blocker. 

St. Brown emerged last season, but now's not the time to let up, and he and the Irish are hoping for more.

“He's diligently working on some of the weaknesses he had,” Kelly said. “EQ will be a better player.”

cgoff@jg.net