At this time in 2019, Ja'Marr Chase was just another receiver at LSU, which may have more
BATON ROUGE — At this time last year, LSU had a highly recruited wide receiver entering his sophomore season who caught only 23 passes for 313 yards and three touchdowns in 2018.
His name was Ja'Marr Chase, who caught 84 passes in the Tigers' 15-0, national championship season in 2019-20 for 1,780 yards and 20 touchdowns and won the Biletnikoff Award that goes to the nation's best wide receiver.
Chase is expected to be a top five first round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, which he is preparing for after leaving LSU last week before his junior season.
LSU coach Ed Orgeron believes there may be another Chase or two among his receivers this season who have been waiting their turn as Chase was a year ago at this time.
"Yes, if there's any position that can take that (the loss of a player like Chase), that would be the wide receivers," Orgeron said last week. "We have a lot of depth there."
But that group was already trying to replace Justin Jefferson, who led LSU in 2019-20 as a junior with 111 catches for 1,540 yards and 18 touchdowns. He was drafted No. 22 of the first round by Minnesota last April.
And LSU will be breaking in a relatively new quarterback in red-shirt junior Myles Brennan, who was a backup for his first three years at LSU.
The most experienced wide receiver now is junior Terrace Marshall Jr. (6-foot-3, 200 pounds) of Parkway High in Bossier City. He caught 46 passes last season for 671 yards and 13 touchdowns.
"A guy a lot of people don't talk about who's a great player is Terrace Marshall," Orgeron said.
After Marshall, the number of receptions to talk about nose dives.
There is senior Racey McMath (6-3, 224) of Karr High in New Orleans. He had similar numbers last season to Chase in 2018 as he caught 17 passes for 285 yards and three touchdowns.
There is senior Jontre Kirklin (6-0, 184) of Lutcher High. He caught two passes for 75 yards last season with a 65-yard reception. There is Jena sophomore Jaray Jenkins (6-4, 194), who caught five passes for 67 yards. Sophomore Trey Palmer (6-0, 180) was a five-star prospect in 2019 when he signed out of Kentwood, but he caught only one pass for six yards last season.
There are three incoming freshmen wide receivers. Kayshon Boutte (6-1, 185) of Westgate High in New Iberia signed in 2020 as the No. 1 prospect in the state and as the No. 6 receiver in the nation and No. 35 overall prospect. There is also Koy Moore (6-1, 181) of Rummel High in Metairie who is the No. 5 prospect in Louisiana and No. 27 wide receiver nationally. Alex Adams (5-11, 185) is the No. 77 receiver in the nation out of South Pike High in Magnolia, Mississippi.
There is also freshman signee Arik Gilbert (6-5, 248), who signed as the No. 1 tight end in the nation out of Marietta, Georgia, but he can play wide receiver as well.
"There are 200 balls between Jefferson and Ja'Marr that's got to be caught," Orgeron said. "And these guys are eager to catch them, man. So, Boutte, Koy Moore, and those guys have stuck out. Jontre Kirklin, Racey McMath, and Terrace Marshall - this is their time."
Who will be the next Chase or Jefferson?
"I think that what you're going to see is, guys are going to step up, and there's going to be one new superstar that we don't know about because it's his time," Orgeron said. "There has been a lot of competition."
At the moment, Marshall, McMath, Boutte, and Gilbert are the top four receivers.
"We're looking at Kayshon Boutte starting as a freshman," Orgeron said Tuesday morning on a teleconference. "I think that's locked in with Racey McMatch. Terrace Marshall has to be our go-to guy. We mentioned that this morning. Arik Gilbert, if you look at that, those are the top four receivers that we have right now. Koy Moore is coming along very fast."
Moore has been bothered by a hamstring pull, though.
"He has been hurt a little bit," Orgeron said. "Jontre Kirklin has been having a good camp. And we want to play six, seven, eight receivers — keep them fresh."