Does Notre Dame have a legitimate shot at Amon-Ra St. Brown?
SAN ANTONIO — Amon-Ra St. Brown trimmed his list of college finalists to three on Christmas Day: USC, Notre Dame and Stanford.
During the U.S. Army All-American Bowl on Saturday at the Alamodome, the five-star wide receiver will announce his college destination with a verbal commitment and plans to sign in February. Does he already have a decision in mind?
“Pretty much,” St. Brown said Tuesday following practice for the Army Bowl. “I know what I like.”
In the past few weeks, the decision became clear to St. Brown. He told his parents of his intentions, but he has yet to inform any of the college coaching staffs.
“I can't go wrong with either choice,” St. Brown said. “They're all great institutions academically and football-wise. It comes down to my gut. Whatever my gut tells me."
St. Brown’s unusually long recruitment has come down to three schools with obvious connections to him. USC, the perceived favorite, offers the chance to play with his high school quarterback. JT Daniels, a five-star recruit himself, recently announced he will graduate from Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei High a year ahead of schedule to enroll at USC in 2018.
This past season, Mater Dei finished 15-0 with a state championship and was ranked by many as the top high school team in the country. Daniels completed 262 of his 365 passes (72 percent) for 4,123 yards and 52 touchdowns. St. Brown accounted for 72 catches, 1,320 receiving yards and 20 receiving touchdowns in 12 games.
Daniels is even playing with St. Brown on the West team for the Army Bowl. St. Brown had known of Daniels’ plan to skip his senior year for months before Daniels announced it in December.
“It would be nice to play with a quarterback that I played with the last three or four years,” St. Brown said. “But it's not going to have a final say in my decision."
At Notre Dame, the 5-foot-11, 175-pound St. Brown could follow the path of his older brother, Equanimeous St. Brown. The Irish wide receiver finished his junior season with a team highs in receptions (33) and receiving yards (515), with four touchdowns. Amon-Ra’s recruiting process essentially started when Equanimeous was touring the country on visits when he was in high school. Amon-Ra’s first offer came when he was only a freshman at Anaheim (Calif.) Servite.
“From Equanimeous, I learned a lot about college, what it's like to play a big stage each and every week, what's expected of you,” Amon-Ra said. “I kind of know what it's like now."
Amon-Ra said he was able to watch the start of Notre Dame’s 21-17 victory over LSU in the Citrus Bowl in between Army Bowl practice and meetings on Monday. That included a 35-yard reception by Equanimeous, which Amon-Ra described as “dope.”
The Irish also have their own highly ranked, 2018 quarterback recruit in Phil Jurkovec. But a wobbly 2017 season for first-year starter Brandon Wimbush and a strong performance by Ian Book that led to a Citrus Bowl victory has spawned uncertainty at the position for Notre Dame.
"I heard Phil Jurkovec is pretty good. I'm going to get a chance to watch him this week,” Amon-Ra said. “It's going to be nice to see that. The quarterback situation wasn't the best at Notre Dame this year. I know that. The coaches told me that they're going to get it fixed. I trust them."
Head coach Brian Kelly, recruiting coordinator Brian Polian and wide receivers coach DelVaughn Alexander have all made Amon-Ra feel like a priority. When Kelly made an in-home visit in December, it was Notre Dame’s last move in his recruitment.
"It was one of the most impressive home visits I've had all year,” Amon-Ra said. “Their pitch on the way they recruited me, they said all the right things. They're really impressive recruiters and coaches."
Stanford also offers Amon-Ra a chance to play with an older brother. Osiris St. Brown didn’t play in his freshman season this past year. The Cardinal beat Notre Dame in November with all three St. Brown brothers in attendance.
Soon, a process that’s lasted close to four years will be over for Amon-Ra. The youngest brother said he has enjoyed being recruited and used lessons learned from Equaniemous and Osiris.
“The biggest thing I learned was to never big-time a coach,” Amon-Ra said. “Since I was in eighth grade, when I first started to go around looking at schools, a lot of coaches moved. (Head coach Jim) Harbaugh wasn't even at Michigan. So much has happened. Being honest and not big-timing coaches is huge, because that next coach could be in the NFL and may want to draft you."
Making note of the NFL captures Amon-Ra’s ambitions as a football player. He’s not as big as his older brothers, but his attitude, combined with great athleticism, has led recruiting analysts to forecast an even brighter future for Amon-Ra than the others. Neither Equanimeous, nor Osiris reached five-star status.
Rivals ranks him as the No. 1 wide receiver in the 2018 class. 247Sports slates him as second. Yet he still keeps pushing to prove he belongs.
The three coaching staffs awaiting word from Amon-Ra on Saturday likely have little doubt.
“I want to finish it with a bang,” Amon-Ra said. “I want to dominate everyone who's in front of me, and get to college and get it going."