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Keep expectations in check for Amon-Ra St. Brown’s first year

St. Brown is incoming five-star recruit. Though that does not mean he will be a record breaking receiver just yet for USC.

NCAA Football: Southern California Spring Game Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Every offseason, one of the biggest things to do is think of all the possibilities of what freshman can do to make themselves shine. And one of the freshman that USC fans have high hopes for this season is five-star wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown.

The receiver from Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, California comes in as the No. 11 recruit in the Top 247, No. 2 receiver in the nation and No. 1 prospect in California in the class 2018. That pedigree is earning St. Brown some incredible prediction hype from Bleacher Report’s Kerry Miller.

“Finishes first or second in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns among Trojans,” Miller wrote in his article about bold predictions for nine incoming freshmen.

“He should be USC’s primary slot receiver and either its best or second-best receiver. And when he finishes with something in the vicinity of 45 catches, 750 yards and seven touchdowns, prepare for a 2019 offseason wondering if he could become USC’s all-time leader in any or all of those categories. (Current marks: 252 catches by Robert Woods, 3,655 yards by Marqise Lee and 41 touchdowns by Dwayne Jarrett.)”

While that prediction certainly is warranted — St. Brown snagged 146 catches for 2,785 yards and 42 touchdowns in his high school career — USC fans should more than likely simmer that expectation of St. Brown if one were to look at top-incoming freshmen receivers in year’s past.

As Miller pointed out, there has only been nine freshmen receivers this past decade who have topped 1,000 yards for a Power 5 team — Marquess Wilson, Sammy Watkins, Marqise Lee, Mike Evans, Tyler Boyd, Mike Dudek, KD Cannon, Calvin Ridley and Christian Kirk. Plus, looking at the top-2 receivers in the past five classes (2013-2017) according to 247 Sports, only two either led or was second on the team in yards — former Alabama Crimson Tide Calvin Ridley (89 catches, 1,045 yards and seven touchdowns) and former California, current Georgia Bulldog Demetris Robertson (50 receptions, 767 yards and seven scores).

Now that doesn’t mean St. Brown can’t put up solid in his first year at USC — the average stat line is 31 catches, 432 yards and three touchdowns for the top-2 receivers in the past five classes. So St. Brown could easily post numbers somewhere around there.

Another reason why Trojan fans should maybe tame their expectations of St. Brown is because the talent USC returns.

Back is established receiver Tyler Vaughns, who caught 57 passes for 809 yards and five touchdowns last year. Plus, junior-to-be Michael Pittman Jr. returns to build off his 404 yard and two score season. Not only that, but the Trojans bring back a trio of quality running backs in Stephen Carr, Aca’Cedric Ware and Vavae Malepeai. As such, it is doubtful St. Brown leads the Pac-12 in any category this year.

Although there are a lot of variables stacked up against St. Brown from having a major freshman season, it doesn’t mean it can’t happen. Miller writes that it could occur depending on who starts at quarterback for USC this year.

“Much of this projection for the stud wide receiver depends upon what happens in the battle for USC’s QB job. If it goes to sophomore Matt Fink or redshirt freshman Jack Sears, perhaps Amon-Ra St. Brown gets a bit lost in the shuffle,” Miller writes. “But if St. Brown’s high school teammate JT Daniels gets the gig, that pre-existing connection could mean St. Brown puts up some of the best numbers among all freshman receivers.

“With Daniels as his primary passer, St. Brown made 132 receptions for 2,549 yards and 41 touchdowns over the past two seasons at Mater Dei. Best of luck trying to find a more lethal QB/WR combo during that time.”

While Daniels definitely could start for the Trojans, it is not for sure.

There is no sugarcoating it, there is a lot of hype surrounding St. Brown. But in year one, don’t expect him to be a record breaker just yet for USC.