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USC's other true freshman from Mater Dei — Amon-ra St. Brown — could make the opener against Nevada Las Vegas special

USC's other true freshman from Mater Dei — Amon-ra St. Brown — could make the opener against Nevada Las Vegas special
True freshman Amon-ra St. Brown has received more praise from coaches the last few weeks than any other Trojan (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

Amon-ra St. Brown was in his dorm room Sunday when he texted his roommate, JT Daniels, to ask if he had won the starting quarterback job. Daniels gave him the good news, and the high school teammates from Santa Ana Mater Dei connected on FaceTime for a quick chat.

“Let’s go get it,’ ” St. Brown said.

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“Let’s go,’ ” Daniels agreed.

St. Brown said all the right things during his first interview of the season Tuesday: among USC quarterbacks, he doesn’t feel that much more chemistry with Daniels; his first catch as a Trojan won’t be any more meaningful because it will come from Daniels.

But, watching them work together during fall camp, it was no surprise that three of Daniels’ four touchdowns in the first scrimmage went to St. Brown. And it would come as no surprise if Daniels looks St. Brown’s way early and often during their Coliseum debut Saturday against Nevada Las Vegas.

Daniels did not deny this week that he leaned on St. Brown in his quest to win the quarterback battle.

“A lot,” Daniels said. “As you have all seen, Amon-ra is about as good as it gets, coming out of high school and being able to compete with the top dogs at a USC. Also just knowing Amon-ra as long as I have and having that sort of connection, it’s really special, and I always know where Amon is going to be, he knows where I’m going to put it. We’ll just keep building off that connection.”

St. Brown has received more praise from coaches the last few weeks than any other Trojan. USC coach Clay Helton can’t discuss the true freshman from Anaheim Hills without comparing him to former USC star receiver Robert Woods, a former standard bearer of the unit.

St. Brown may be listed as second team behind Tyler Vaughns, Michael Pittman Jr. and Velus Jones Jr., but his natural gifts — plus his ability to play inside and out — should keep him rotating into the lineup consistently.

“He does a heck of a job,” Helton said. “The maturity he’s come in with mentally and physically, the seriousness that he’s gone about preparing for this season, he’s gonna be a really good college football player.”

What could show Helton’s faith in St. Brown more than deciding to start him as the Trojans’ punt returner from Day 1?

“One, I thought he made great decisions as far as to field the ball or not to field the ball,” Helton said. “Two, he’s a natural catcher. You can just see that it was easy for him, that he didn’t have to work at it. At some scrimmages, it was neat to see him burst out of it and create some explosion. He’s got a knack for it.”

St. Brown said that even though he returned punts in high school, it will be a new experience for him Saturday because of the bigger crowd and the higher-arcing punts.

“So I’m gonna have to do a good job of feeling the ball,” St. Brown said. “I think punt return is huge. The first thing is you have to catch the ball. But after that it’s just reading your blocks and making the right moves.”

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