TOP10 TIGERS OF 2019/2020 #3 PT.I: JA'MARR CHASE DB-ERASER
Updated: Mar 28, 2021
And so....it begineth
(Sophomore / WR)
-84 receptions from 106 total targets
-6 games of 2+ TDs (4 vs Vandy)
-10 3rd down conversions
-60 1st downs
-58 Gains of 15+ yards
-8 TDs of 50+ yards (NCAA record)
-6 TDs, five 120+ yard games
(vs 7 Top 10 teams)
-Championship Game record for receiving
-23 Catches After Creating Full Separation
-Made opp. Miss 18x after catch
-5 dropped passes
(1 dropped TD vs Clemson)
-6 passes (2 TDs) caught while Interfered
-Drew 9 PI flags
-21.2 yards per catch
How could anyone even begin to separate one from another out wide?
Like the conjoined receiving colossus twins that they are, Ja'Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson couldn't be taken from another, whether via the Top 10 Tigers of 2019 list or on the field:
They belonged together, pushing each other to the maximum of their abilities, attempting to out-do one another every play and best of all, while both were on the field, the tandem became unstoppable due to their sheer presence.
Like OBJ and Jarvis, Randy and Cris, Tory and Isaac, Jerry & T.O, Shaq and Kobe, or Woody Harrelson and a bong, Jefferson and Chase belonged as a combined force, becoming a two-headed beast, devouring entire secondaries, bending safeties into Cover 2 badlands, disfiguring the souls of cornerbacks across the country....all they needed?
These guys didn't need Joe Burrow to be great 1st round NFL draft talents...they needed Jeaux Burreaux so they could explode as the greatest dual receiving duo of all time while finishing as champions.
In these virtuoso pursuits, Jefferson and Chase combined for 3,320 yards and 38 touchdowns, both caught 4 TDs in a single game (7 of those 8 total TDs arriving in the first half alone), they each eclipsed 18+ scores on the season, and when it mattered most, against the seven Top 10 teams we vanquished, Ja'Marr and Justin went off:
Chase caught 4 touchdowns as he clocked 5 separate 140+ yard appearances vs the seven Top 10 schools, while Jefferson grabbed 9 TDs and 5 games of 106+ yards in those ultimate battles.
Each grabbed 9+ receptions, 220+ yards and 6 combined scores in the College Football Playoff semifinal and final, deciding the contests before they'd even begun.
Despite such a rich history of uber-freaks and WR geeks, LSU may have seen their greatest duo in 2019, with one member exiting out the door following one record-shattering quest for the infinite after another.
Anyone who watched the young man knew he was a space and time bending machine, existing under his own law while forcing any corner (brave enough to face him twice) towards the brink of psychological collapse.
Though his freshman season will always remain a case of "What Could Have Been", Ja'Marr Chase's aerial abilities know no bounds...
But he was nearly a DB at DBU or...worse...a Gator...
During his highly entertaining recruitment, the battle raged on between Florida and LSU for Ja'Marr's empirical services.
Ever since his first visits in 2016, Les Miles attempted to sell Ja'Marr on his vision for him as "a cornerback".
As a great coach and recruiter, Miles still never understood how to properly utilize talent:
QB Jordan Jefferson would've been a better running back or receiver, Miles publicly ruined Russell Shepard's opportunities at QB, failing to give him a full shot in his new position out wide, either.
Ja'Marr sensed this bafoonery, scoffed at the idea of suiting up at corner, couldn't believe the in-state disrespect from Les, then wisely committed to Florida thanks to Miles' over-thinking and inability to get the most out of #7's rare skill set....turns out Miles nearly cost LSU another title.
Luckily for Tigers fans, once Orgeron jumped on board as interim head coach (before finally being handed the keys to the kingdom full-time), he went after the receiving talent hard.
"I knew once we lost receivers like D.J (Chark), Russell Gage, Travin Dural, Malachi Dupre, we had to reload," Coach Orgeron said in 2019, "Those guys were great competitors, had a lotta grit...they gave us everything you could've asked for, but we were too late in finding a system for them, we failed them. This next group wasn't gonna be let down...I was sure of that."
In 2017, things were dire for LSU's once proud receiving corps: only Chark's 811 yards and 35 receptions eclipsed the next best receiver's total of 330 yards...
...LSU's passing game didn't exist.
Though he was a Louisiana kid, Chase had his mind set on Florida after an excellent pitch from Head Coach Jim McElwain.
Unfortunately for McElwain, The University of Florida and upcoming sophomore quarterback Kyle Trask, the Gators athletic department canned the coach and with his exit, Chase followed.
Meanwhile at Rummel High in the first round of the state playoffs, senior Ja'Marr Chase enjoyed one of his greatest high school performances vs C.E Byrd....however, suffering followed:
With 126 yards, 9 receptions for 3 receiving touchdowns, 92 yards rushing while returning kickoffs for 56, Ja'Marr wickedly sprained the PCL ligament of his knee, ending his senior year on a heavy note and souring his recruitment...
This would end up as a serendipitous moment for Ja'Marr and LSU: unlike Alabama, Georgia, Oklahoma, Clemson or Ohio State, LSU never drops a recruit due to an injury.
Setting him up with the rehab and recovery staff under Tommy Moffitt, Shelley Mullinex and Dr. Bankston, Orgeron gathered wideouts coach (Nebraska quarterbacking legend) Mickey Joseph, the two selling Chase on catching passes from Myles Brennan.
Brennan was not only a top quarterback prospect for him to grow alongside in purple and gold, Blondie far exceeded anyone else Florida's roster contained....but the reality would turn out differently...albeit crazily beyond Chase's wildest dreams.
Criminally ranked as the "15th best receiver in the nation and 5th overall player out of the Boot to represent the 2017 class", Chase arrived at LSU with pedigree from those who'd studied the tape:
As a senior, Chase grabbed 61 passes for 1,011 yards and 15 touchdowns, dropping only a single pass as he fast became the #1 talent in Louisiana.
Ja'Marr was a triple threat as a Rummel High Raider, additionally rushing 16 times for 102 yards and returned a kickoff for a TD; Chase finished an illustrious Rummel career with 115 receptions for 2,152 yards and 30 touchdowns...one of the greatest receivers to ever come out of the Boot.
Regardless of his boundless talents, for many, Justin Jefferson was still the guy for 2018... Ja'Marr felt like a raw freshman...and his knee hampered his burst off the line.
At the time, our offensive coaching didn't realize LSU could be unstoppable using both simultaneously...we had no idea just how explosive the tandem's metamorphosis would be....we had no understanding of the match ups our offense could exploit using Chase and Jefferson's length, speed and size together....we'd never been shown that kind of Bayou action from an offense...or a quarterback...
Then Joe Burrow signed on and became the starting quarterback with ease, charisma and growing confidence. LSU were better than they'd been in some time on offense, however crude the beginnings were for that 2018 squad, however you could see the evolution which was just around the corner if they would only put the pedal to the metal...
After an upset of #2 Georgia, a primetime Week 1 defeat of ranked Miami, LSU went into a home game at Death Valley against Alabama in a top 5 matchup for control of the SEC West and a spot in the SEC title game...but LSU's embryonic 2018 offense weren't ready for prime time just yet against Saban and co...
As soon as the 29-0 embarrassment (in front of a funereal gobsmacked Death Valley), Offensive Coordinator Steve Ensminger and Coach Orgeron began plotting a freewheeling passing attack.
Ensminger (The Bayou Gandalf) took the reigns of the project, grabbed the Matt Canada / Cam Cameron / Strudrawa playbook and tossed it over an empty fire, dousing its charred profligate remnants with his jar of liquefied chew, then against the eerie midnight moonlight of the Bayou, Ensminger nodded in reverent silence towards the crackling archaic past.
Offensive practices became mental more than physical, dissecting plays in the classroom and acting / talking / playing with urgency & aggression, adjusting the route trees and installing multi-option choice routes.
Competition intensified in every position, the offensive line tightened up, James Cregg coaching up the line into an astounding, award-winning transcendence, and with Burrow, Brennan, those receivers, Thaddeus and Clyde, the uncompromising approach of the current LSU offensive dynasty was established.
Soon enough, Burrow found himself in the gun, flanked by 4 or 5 wide, this new additional WR personnel featuring Ja'Marr Chase, finally.
This'll sound simple, but it's the truth: before Joe Brady even dreamt of coming to Baton Rouge, Ensminger already recovered from Bama and innovated the offense, using stick routes and multi-option "choice routes" which favored Ja'Marr and Justin's deceptive movements or Joe Burrow's quick draw release.
Their feet would be aiming one way as they're running an out pattern, then suddenly their heads and shoulders would violently cut back and the DB is stranded...20-50 yards in front of #1 and #2.
Unpredictability in tempo, timing, route selection, and personnel elevated the already-superior athletic Tigers over every opponent.
Joe would go back to the hot hand for three fast-draw McGraw plays in a row, then slow it down before the snap at random moments...wearing defenses down physically as well as psychologically.
Whether he was targeted or not, Chase's wingspan and bullish strength off the line created havoc for secondaries, freeing up Justin Jefferson to grab 4 of his 6 total touchdowns in the final 3 games.
Coinciding with Jefferson's skyrocketing production, Burrow tossed 9 of his 16 TDs during the same stretch.
While hardly (and harshly) used, throughout his vague sniffs of the field, Chase still stunningly acquired 5 gains of 21+ yards from 23 overall receptions as an injured freshman.
In bizarre, ultimate YAC pontification, against #8 Miami, Rice and Ole Miss, Ja'Marr caught only a single pass, however each time the catch went for 22-45 yards, including his one reception for a 45 yard touchdown vs Ole Miss.
Although he saw more snaps in the final games, it wasn't until the 2019 Fiesta Bowl vs UCF when Chase hammered his stake deep into the WRU ground.
In one of the nastiest collegiate games in a long time, UCF were flagged for 4 unsportsmanlike conduct penalties in the 1st quarter alone, while two players (UCF's Gibson, LSU's Alexander) were ejected in a manic first half.
Despite a pick six by Brandon Moore and some dirty play early on from Rashaud Causey, Central Florida's DBs couldn't handle the long, massive titans out wide, losing every one on one battle as Ja'Marr announced himself with 6 grabs, 93 yards and a touchdown, 5 first downs, 4 gains of 14 yards or more and a pair of 3rd down conversions, all season highs.
While typical pre-2019 LSU offensive "dislogic" would tell us Chase's extra catches and attention would take away from Jefferson, we seemed to forget the boundless joys of premium LSU talent (Jefferson caught 2 TDs, his first multi-score appearance of 2018):
With Joe Burrow slinging the ball around, two ballers out wide and a deathcookie in the backfield (Clyde), we could do anything....everything all the time.
During the 2019 off-season, Chase, Jefferson and Burrow enjoyed their first full Spring and Summer on campus together, instituting WR Coach Mickey Joseph's "Summer of 10,000 Catches".
Ja'Marr had to watch McMath, Kirklin, Jefferson, Sullivan catch 10,000 passes the previous summer...now he wanted all 10k to himself.
After the capture of unknown then-29 year old Saints analyst Joe Brady, Steve Ensminger's previous adaptation of NFL techniques, plays, formations and personnel groupings were further aided by the former William and Mary's wide out and Penn State assistant's youthful challenging of receivers Chase and Jefferson.
Joining the offensive geniuses leading the room, Brady recommended his Wiliam and Mary's wingman D.J Mangus, while Jorge Munoz became a dual-role analyst, both in Joe's ear and communicating to the booth.
Because of all this movement and influence, based on Orgeron's orders, LSU's offensive staff simultaneously grew as fast as their production on the field.
Thanks to the ascending chemistry among the like-minded offensive coaches, as well as the molten ESP between Burrow and his receivers (including newbie Terrace Marshall, versatile tight end Thaddeus Moss, speedsters Jontre Kirklin and Trey Palmer, Derrick Dillon's hard edged mobility and skyscraper threat Racey McMath), LSU went into the 2019 season armed with more than high hopes and some 'awe shucks' confidence...they just quietly told the world what they were about to accomplish at Saban, Jimbo, Gus, Muschamp, Herman, Riley, Kirby and Dabo's expense.
Ja'Marr began 2019 on a limited basis, used sparingly but still posting 2 brilliant catches for 21 yards and a TD vs Georgia Southern; However, once everything was on the line vs Texas in week 2, Jefferson, Chase, Moss, Marshall and Clyde Edwards-Helaire became the fortified cluster of primal devastation we'd all been waiting for.
The 3rd and 17 pass to Jefferson ignited the revolution, but it was Chase's constant work near the sidelines which opened the middle of the field for Burrow's exploitation thereof
Both Chase and Justin had career days, 8 for 147 and 9 for 163, 10 first downs, a trio of 3rd down conversions, and 4 touchdowns between the two (Jefferson even dropped a TD)....Terrace Marshall explicitly balled out too, his own levels rising thanks to inner-squad competition.
Following the bruising affair in Texas, there was yet another stoppage of play for Chase, injuring his ankle against the Longhorns and missing what would've been a stat-stuffing appearance vs Northwestern State.
But if Vanderbilt hoped and prayed for Chase's ankle to hamper his yards after catch, their prayers would fall on deaf ears (god was too busy watching LSU's offense):
Ja'Marr blew the Vandy side of Tennessee apart, catching 10 passes from 11 targets for 229 yards (7 for 199 and 3 TDs in the first half alone), a 4th TD in the second half, a leaping circus catch over a DB while being interfered, and three scores of 45+ yards, all capped by his electric 64 yard adventure across the middle of the field, making four men miss and taking it down the sidelines to the house...issuing a stern warning to all watching.
Next, LSU dueled the Gators' #1 ranked defense in a crazy game at Death Valley...a scenario tailored for a Ja'Marr statement.
Playing the school he'd initially committed to, #1 / #7 made four more men miss, converted five 1st downs, posted three gains of 15 yards or more during yet another 100 yard display, hauling in 2 more touchdowns and destroying Florida after the catch, punishing Gator defenders on the end of every hit (the offense scored 42 points from 48 plays).
Throughout the closest contest Orgeron's Tigers endured in 2019, Chase torched Auburn for 8 catches and 123 yards, averaging 15.4 a grab (four gains of 15+ yards), completing 7 first downs and converting a pair of 3rd downs en route to a 23-13 victory....(no Auburn fans....that is the true score).
Across his many improvements in 2019, Chase began to bely his maniacal size when he consistently left DBs in a haze (fifty yards and three seconds in the vapor trail if his wake...all after some actually believed they'd have a chance), displaying his plethora of talents for all to see, no one to defend.
In games vs Florida and Auburn, contests in which SEC rivals fostered marginal success, Chase reminded every draft analyst, 247 Sports hooligan, or independent hipster writer (me) that he was much more than a big play, up and over the top receiver...
Then, upon the biggest, most nightmarish stage of his career, Ja'Marr Chase revealed his championship heart.
Tuscaloosa, November 9th 2019: the entire world beckoned the best two teams in college football to the field...."PLEASE DECIDE THE CFP RIGHT NOW..."
The world witnessed the greatest college football extravaganza of all time: President Donald Trump was forced to kiss Hillary Clinton for a rare pair of tickets, McConaughey rambled around in a cowboy hat for hours until finally, he snuck into the shadows and put on a customized LSU jersey (Wooderson #420 on the back);
Vince Vaughn even stood for a sorority selfie, still smiling in excitement even after someone called him "that rapey guy from The Hangover".
All of this excitement built to a crescendo: first, Joe rockets a ball to Chase on a line between two corners and a safety, out of bounds, 1st down, 17 yards and just like that, the Ensminger/Burrow/Brady orgasm machine rolled along, the message had been sent:
AINT BACKING DOWN...
Then, the release of 8 years of pent-up agony came when Burrow snapped the ball, took one split second to admire his offensive line's prowess, before dropping a dime into Chase's hands, the Rummel High Raider rising high and imperiously catching the pass, his movements and grace sending Trayvin Diggs into the annals of social distancing GIFdom...
...after only minutes into the game, we'd already made a Saban team look foolish...we broke em right there...
It may just be the moment we knew we would win...it was for me.
Thanks to Jefferson and Chase occupying four or more Bama defenders on any given play, pockets of space opened on the ground / in the screen game (due to the run support being occupied 40-50 yards deeper while LSU's receivers are also steadfast blockers).
Since Nick Saban knew just what kind of #1 and #2 receivers we had, he believed his defense had the best chance by forcing Thaddeus Moss, Terrace Marshall and Clyde Edwards-Helaire to win the game
While Clyde and Terrace amassed 5 touchdowns and Thaddeus Moss provided the catch of the year, Jefferson and Chase blasted holes through Saban's Swiss cheese game plan by taking any and all of his shameless defensive schemes and shoving them up his defeat-stained ass:
Saban thought he could negate Jefferson and Chase, but instead Joe hit his other options, Terrace Marshall walking into the end zone and Clyde embarrassing all-comers (Xavier McKinney is still trying to tackle him) for 7 completed spin moves and 4 touchdowns...
This success gained Chase even more room to maneuver and the Florida de-commit made Saban pay for even attempting to stop him, earning five 1st downs, 4 gains in excess of 15 yards, and averaging a disgusting 23.3 yards per catch as we humiliated, desecrated & annihilated Saban's defense for 46 points...but would we hit 46 without Ja'Marr?
Only 7 days later and they were back at the circus catchery again, Chase disintegrating Ole Miss for 28.4 yards per catch and hauling in 3 more TDs as Joe Burrow and the offense lit up Ole Kiss Our Ass for 58.
Chase set another LSU record with his second 200 yard receiving day, completing a 64 yard near carbon copy replica of his long TD vs Vanderbilt, racking up the most scores by an LSU receiver.
The next week on senior night vs A&M, Chase was a stupid 3 measly yards away from another 200 yard game, tallying two more scores and a riotous 78 y