‘Give me the ball’: Terrace Marshall Jr. has shined as LSU’s primary target despite 1-2 start

At some point in LSU’s loss to Missouri last weekend, junior wide receiver Terrace Marshall Jr. made a demand.

“Give me the ball,” Marshall said.

Marshall told his coaches Missouri had left him in single coverage. He viewed the strategy as an advantage. The coaches obliged, feeding Marshall’s competitive edge, and he almost single-handedly lifted LSU over Missouri.

Marshall finished with career-highs in receptions (11), yards (235) and touchdowns (three), and when LSU tried to win the game with a last-second score, it targeted Marshall twice at the goal line. Missouri batted down both passes, handing LSU its second loss.

“I’m doing what I can to help contribute to the team,” Marshall said. “I’ll look at the stats later.”

In the midst of LSU’s disastrous 1-2 start, Marshall has shined as LSU’s primary target for the first time in his career. He felt overlooked this preseason and tapped into the perceived doubt to become one of the most productive wide receivers in college football.

Through three games, Marshall has collected 21 receptions for 424 yards and seven touchdowns, setting him on pace for 70 catches, 1,413 yards and 23 touchdowns in LSU’s shortened regular season.

Imagine if the Tigers had a typical schedule.

“He’s in that zone,” coach Ed Orgeron said.

Marshall has succeeded in a variety of ways. He has lined up throughout the formation, sprinted past defenders on vertical routes and displayed remarkable body control near the sideline. He has caught passes over the middle and on the edge, using his 6-foot-3, 200-pound frame as an advantage. He has caught a touchdown every three receptions.

After spending the first half of his career as an outside threat, Marshall has done most of his damage from the slot this season. On LSU’s first touchdown against Missouri, Marshall motioned into the slot and ran a corner route.

Matched against a smaller defensive back, Marshall created about 2 yards of separation. He caught the ball before his foot landed out of bounds. Later, Marshall scored a 75-yard touchdown out of the slot, sprinting past the safeties in coverage.

“You always see him first during drills,” senior defensive lineman Glen Logan said. “He’s catching balls all the time. He puts in extra work after practices. He deserves everything he’s getting right now because he worked for it.”

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Signs pointed toward a breakout year for Marshall. He caught 13 touchdowns as a sophomore, including five in the postseason, but he was overshadowed by wide receivers Ja’Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson within LSU’s record-setting offense. Missing three games with an injury, Marshall became the third option.

The talent was always there. A former five-star prospect in high school, recruiting services unanimously ranked Marshall the best player in Louisiana even though he missed his senior year with an injury. Coming to LSU he outranked Chase, who finished as the No. 15 wide receiver prospect. Marshall was No. 3.

Chase’s preseason opt out, combined with Jefferson’s departure for the NFL, opened the door for more attention. Surrounded by an inexperienced group of receivers, Marshall instantly became the No. 1 option in LSU’s offense this preseason. But he felt overlooked.

“I let my playing do the talking,” Marshall said.

Marshall caught eight passes for 122 yards and two touchdowns in the season opener, scored another two touchdowns in LSU’s win over Vanderbilt and then recorded the best game of his career last weekend.

As LSU tried to overcome a poor defensive performance, it searched for Marshall at the end of its loss to Missouri. Quarterback Myles Brennan targeted him six times on LSU’s final drive, completing four passes for 50 yards. Marshall’s final catch positioned LSU at the 1-yard line.

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After two inside runs, LSU called plays designed for Marshall on third and fourth down. Missouri defenders stepped in front of the passes.

Different players from the same school haven’t won the Biletnikoff Award since its creation in 1994, but Marshall might follow Chase, possibly giving LSU its third recipient all-time. Marshall ranks second in the country in yards per game (141.3) and second in touchdowns, though different conference seasons have skewed comparisons.

If Marshall continues his production, he may break Chase’s single-season touchdown record of 20, win the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s best pass catcher and catapult himself into the first round of the NFL draft next spring.

At the same time, he could pull LSU’s offense through the season. All LSU has to do is give him the ball.

“My mindset before every game is to go out there and kill,” Marshall said. “Kill whoever’s in front of me, and kill whatever team we’re playing against.”

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