The Duke’s Mayo Bowl win over North Carolina was eight months ago, but that afternoon in Charlotte still brings a smile to Ahmarean Brown’s face.
South Carolina’s first 12 games equated to seven catches and 43 yards for the former Georgia Tech standout. He nearly doubled his season-long totals in that one victory alone, snagging a quartet of passes for 61 yards.
It’s the kind of game USC’s staff envisioned when they signed him. It’s the kind of game Brown hoped for when he transferred in December 2020. It’s why the Gamecocks feel he can make a bigger impact in 2022.
“That gave me huge confidence in myself, huge confidence in this team just showing them that I can be an asset, as well, whether that’s on special teams or doing things on offense,” Brown said Tuesday. “I think it was huge getting the ball in my hands a little bit to show what I can do.”
Brown and senior running mate Xavier Legette spent the latter part of Tuesday morning chatting with reporters. Both represent holdovers in a receiver room that has been infused with talent through the transfer portal.
How both fit into this year’s offensive equation, though, remains to be seen.
“We’ve got some guys in our program like Ahmarean Brown and Xavier Legette that aren’t really young, but guys that were here last year that have really improved since last year,” head coach Shane Beamer said at his golf outing in July.
During his time at Georgia Tech, Brown tied Calvin Johnson’s freshman receiving touchdown record (seven) and led the team in yards receiving (396) on just 21 catches. The bowl win over UNC offered the biggest flash of what Brown can and has been since he arrived at South Carolina.
Brown’s speed is blazing. He’s shifty in and out of the slot. He also offers upside as a punt returner and gunner, where he earned snaps a year ago.
He has continued to rep with the specialists through the early stages of fall camp. Brown returned punts alongside Josh Vann, among others, during portions of practice open to reporters on Monday.
“I don’t think it was any pressure at all,” Brown said of matching Johnson’s mark at Georgia Tech. “Now I just hold myself much higher than I used to. I expect a lot more out of myself.”
Legette, like Brown, had his moments in 2021. He caught the game-winning touchdown pass in the waning seconds of the Vanderbilt game — the final reception of a four-reception, 31-yard outing.
However, Legette was hobbled by injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident ahead of USC’s Week 2 loss at Georgia last year. It forced him to miss two games and scattered practice time in between.
He has since returned to with a clean bill of health, he said. Beamer has also raved about Legette’s work over the spring and summer. He’s even listed at 6-foot-3, 220 pounds compared to 6-foot-1, 217-pounds a year ago.
“We can take a big step,” Legette said of the South Carolina offense. “We can do a lot of great things with this offense. They give everyone opportunities, and we’re just trying to take ownership of our opportunities.”
The Gamecocks receiver room has quickly morphed from a position of need to a perceived strength of the offense entering the fall.
How and where Brown and Legette fit into the equation should be a bit of a wait-and-see game. Both players lauded the competitive nature of the room since its talent overhaul.
It’s part of what Beamer has preached all summer — that he won’t apologize for making positions more competitive when he can add talent that also fits the programs’ goals and standards.
That leaves South Carolina oozing with potential at a position that stands to take as big a step forward as any on the roster in 2022. For Brown, that inspires confidence that days like the bowl victory over North Carolina are still on the horizon.
“When I’m out in the field I’m gonna do my best to show everybody, show the coaches what I can do, and I’m gonna go hard at it,” he said. “Hopefully, I get to do some things this year and light up the stadium a little bit.”