The LSU Tigers had the perfect college football season last year, finishing 15-0, and defeating Clemson for the national championship. Head coach Ed Orgeron knew repeating in 2020 would be incredibly difficult with key losses on the Tigers offense, including the departures of No. 1 overall pick in quarterback Joe Burrow, star receiver Justin Jefferson, and top running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire.
Filling those shoes, however, was something Orgeron had been preparing to do for months. Now, with the season just weeks away, Orgeron’s plans just suffered a major setback with the shocking announcement that Biletnikoff Award winner and star receiver Ja’Marr Chase, has opted out of playing in the 2020 season.
Ja’Marr Chase’s career at LSU
Ja’Marr Chase was used sparingly his freshman season in 2018. He played in 10 games, but only hauled in 23 passes and three touchdowns. At no point during his freshman season could anyone have projected what would happen the following year. There’s also no way anyone could have predicted Joe Burrow would have one of the best single seasons in college football history.
With Burrow under center, Chase was his main target, and the quarterback found him over and over each game throughout the long season. The pair connected for an impressive 84 times throughout the 2019 campaign, good enough for second-best in the SEC.
More important than number of catches, was what Chase did with the ball once in his possession. And it wasn’t just good, it was phenomenal. Chase not only led the FBS in receiving with 1,780 yards, he also led in the most important receiving category of all, touchdowns. He finished with an even 20.
In addition to winning the national championship, in which he caught nine passes for 221 yards and two touchdowns, Ja’Marr Chase also won the Fred Biletnikoff Award as college football’s best receiver and was unanimously selected to the All-American Team.
Ja’Marr Chase opts out of 2020 season
With the departure of Joe Burrow, most experts projected junior Myles Brennan to be LSU’s starting quarterback in 2020. What no one could have predicted, even Orgeron, was that the team’s best threat at receiver would decide to skip the season and announce it less than a month from the season-opening kickoff.
According to CBS college football reporter Dennis Dodd, Ja’Marr Chase is opting out of the 2020 college football season to focus on the the NFL. A formal announcement is expected Monday with Chase declaring for the 2021 NFL Draft.
“It’s 100% happening,” CBS reported a source told them. The sources added Chase’s decision is not specific to the pandemic but he has been convinced by agents to leave before his third collegiate season. He is projected to be the top receiver taken and possibly a top 5 pick.
LSU’s other remaining weapons
While the loss of Ja’Marr Chase is enormous, Brennan still has a couple of very talented receivers in Terrace Marshall Jr. and Racey McMath.
Chase’s huge year in 2019 overshadowed an outstanding season from the sophomore Marshall. In 12 games, he caught 46 passes, an impressive 13 of them for touchdowns. It was seventh-best in the FBS.
In addition, Tigers fans are expecting big things this season from McMath. The 6-foot-3-inch, 224-pound junior saw spot duty last season. When he played, he was effective catching 17 passes with a 16.8 yard per catch average, which included three touchdowns.
LSU, which is ranked No. 6 in the first preseason AP poll, opens the season on Sept. 26 at home against Mississippi State. With its volume of high-quality talent on offense returning, the 2020 season looked to be one of reloading and not rebuilding. With Ja’Marr Chase’s unexpected departure, things just got a little more challenging for LSU and a lot more interesting for the SEC.