The defending national champions were dealt a crushing blow Sunday when CBSSports reported, and then subsequent media outlets confirmed, that junior wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase will opt out of the 2020 season.
Chase, a first-team All-American in 2019, has declared for the 2021 NFL Draft. He is considered by many to be the nation’s premier WR.
As a sophomore last season, he had 84 receptions for 1,780 yards and 20 touchdowns. Despite missing one game of LSU’s 15 wins in an unbeaten season, Chase still led the nation in both TD catches and receiving yards.
In 2018 as a freshman, Chase had 23 catches for 313 yards and three TDs.
LSU saw 14 of its players selected in the 2020 NFL Draft. A 15th player — Thaddeus Moss, the tight end who is the son of NFL Hall of Famer Randy Moss — wasn’t drafted even though he had 47 receptions (and ZERO drops) for 570 yards and four TDs in ’19.
Ed Orgeron’s staff lost offensive passing guru Joe Brady left to the NFL’s Carolina Panthers. Brady is the new offensive coordinator for head coach Matt Rhule, who replaced Ron Rivera. Furthermore, LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda was hired as the new head coach at Baylor University.
Orgeron has replaced Aranda with Bo Pelini, the former HC at Nebraska who was the Tigers’ DC when they won the national title in 2007 by blasting Ohio St. at the BCS Championship Game in New Orleans.
LSU was returning just eight starters originally (three on offense, five on defense), but those numbers are down to two returning starters on offense and four on ‘D.’ In addition to Chase, the other opt-out is senior DB Kary Vincent, who finished ’19 with 47 tackles, nine passes broken up, four interceptions and two tackles for loss. Vincent was a preseason fourth-team All-SEC choice in Phil Steele’s magazine.
BetOnline has LSU installed as a 16.5-point home favorite vs. Mississippi St. in its opener on Sept. 26. That’s a one-point adjustment, as LSU was -17.5 vs. MSU as recently as 4-5 days ago. Mike Leach, the new HC for the Bulldogs, owns an 18-6 against-the-spread record with six outright victories in his last 24 games as a double-digit underdog.
The current count of preseason first-or-second-team All-Americans (per Steele’s mag) that aren’t going to play in 2020 is up to seven. The six others who chose to skip the year prior to Chase and Memphis RB Kenneth Gainwell (who also made his decision Sunday, 8/30) are Miami DE Gregory Rousseau, Pitt DT Jaylen Twyman, Penn St. LB Micah Parsons, Purdue WR Rondale Moore and Minnesota WR Rashod Bateman.
In other college football news, Georgia WR Dominick Blaylock is out for the season after sustaining an ACL tear at Wednesday’s practice in Athens. Blaylock tore the ACL in his left knee, the same one he suffered the same injury to in last year’s SEC Championship Game loss to LSU.
In 12 games last year as a true freshman, Blaylock had 18 receptions for 310 yards and five TDs. He also had 128 punt return yards, averaging 9.1 yards per return.
BetOnline has LSU’s season win total at seven (‘over’ -140, ‘under’ +110). Chase had 50/1 odds to win the Heisman Trophy before opting out.
BetOnline has released some new lines for Sept. 12, including FSU -11.5 vs. Ga. Tech and North Carolina -17.5 vs. Syracuse.