Two weeks ago, junior wide receiver Terrace Marshall Jr. asked LSU head football coach Ed Orgeron for an opportunity to address the entire team heading into the Nov. 21 Southeastern Conference game at Arkansas.
On Sunday the day after the Tigers returned from a 20-7 loss at Texas A&M, Marshall wanted to have a different conversation with Orgeron, telling him he was opting out of the remainder of the season to begin preparations for the 2021 NFL Draft.
“Terrace did come talk to me yesterday morning, like a man,” Orgeron said Monday during his weekly news conference. “Terrace and I have a great relationship. I played with his uncle, Joe Delaney. We talk about Joe all the time. It was a little bit different between me and Terrace, almost like family. He came and talked to me like a man. He told me his decision. I respected his decision.
“Yes, this is a different time. Like Ja’Marr Chase opting out, Terrace Marshall, two of the best receivers in the country. Tyler Shelvin. Something you got to deal with, next man up. We got a lot of young guys that get to play now. They’re excited. I think this is going to help us in the future.”
The 6-foot-3, 200-pound Marshall leaves a sizable void in an offense for LSU (3-4, 3-4 SEC) as it prepares to host top-ranked Alabama (8-0, 8-0 SEC) in Saturday’s rescheduled game at 7 p.m. in Tiger Stadium.
Marshall became the program’s next great wide receiver, taking the baton from Justin Jefferson – a first-round draft choice of the Minnesota Vikings – and Chase who decided to opt out in September before the 2020 season kicked off.
Marshall, a native of Bossier City, led LSU in all key receiving categories with 48 catches for 731 yards and 10 touchdowns. His final act for the Tigers was scoring LSU’s only points, a 3-yard TD pass from Max Johnson, in the Texas A&M loss.
He finished his career with 106 catches for 1,594 yards and 23 touchdowns. His TD catches total ranks him in a tie for fourth in career TD, three behind program leader Dwayne Bowe (2003-06).
A year ago, Marshall’s 13 touchdowns were third best on the single-season school mark behind Chase’s 20 and Jefferson’s 18.
“We wish him the very best,” Orgeron said. “He’s going to have a great career in the NFL. Always going to be a great Tiger. He did a lot of things for us. Seven games, 10 receptions. He just thought this was the time to opt out. We’re going to respect his decision and wish him the best.”
Here’s what else Orgeron had to say:
“Tell the Truth Monday. I thought our defense played its best game the whole year, holding Texas A&M to 13 points. Tremendous job. Holding them to 267 yards total offense, their lowest output of the season. They were two of 16 on third downs. We’ve been phenomenal on third downs the last two games on defense. I thought the turnover on fourth-and-one was an excellent effort play. I watched it about 20 times. Turned the outcome of the game. They were about to go up 17 points. Just a tremendous effort by the defense.
On the offense, number one, the scheme has to be better. I watched the film yesterday. We need to put our players in better positions, call better plays, have answers to their blitzes. Too many free blitzes hitting our young quarterbacks. Our execution has to be better on run blocking. We did not control their front or blitzes. We watched that yesterday, identified what went wrong. We came up with a lot of solutions. Today is going to be a big day on fixing what went wrong on offense. Two turnovers, minus three in the turnover battle. We had a turnover on special teams. Special teams did not play its best game. We had a missed field goal. We had four penalties. Zach was running for his life back there. Thank God he’s athletic. He avoided a couple of blocked punts. I thought Zach did a tremendous job of getting us out of trouble.
Today is going to be about fixing LSU and a little bit about Alabama, then tomorrow we’ll move on to Alabama with a scouting report, get ready for them. We practiced Alabama seems like now for the third week. We kind of know them very well. Obviously, a great football team, great football coach, led by their offense, 48 points a game. Matt Jones is having a tremendous year. Najee Harris is going to be the best back we see all year. Devonta Smith is an outstanding player, 72 receptions. (Offensive coordinator Steve) Sarkisian does a job of getting him the ball. Probably be the best offensive line we’ll see all year. Looking forward to playing Alabama. Hope we have a great crowd there, as many as we possibly can. It will be a wonderful night for the Tigers.
On there being a concern of the team’s morale after Terrace’s speech to the team
“It’s something we can’t control. That’s something that happened last week. I never thought this would happen this week. You know what, we got to deal with it. This is a year we’ve had to deal with a lot of stuff. You just got to be ready to go, stay positive with the football team. I think the team is going to look at it and say, ‘Ok, Terrace is gone, next man up’. We’re fighting. I think the thing you saw against Texas A&M was fight in this football team, the will to win and compete. Our guys have that. I’m proud of them for that.”
On coaching against Alabama’s Nick Saban who is expected to be back on the sideline this week
“He’s a great coach. Look at what he’s done. He’s done a fantastic job with his football team. You can see the same traits in and out with his football team, execution, great players, great coaches, great plays. I think the guy has done a tremendous job with his program.”
On whether you submitted the play of Kayshon Boutte’s touchdown which was reversed to an incompletion to the SEC office
“We definitely sent it back. We’ll see what they say.”
On your thoughts on the play
“Sure, I thought it was a touchdown, no question (smiling).”
On whether you expected additional opt outs
“Yeah, that has not been discussed with anybody else. I haven’t heard anything. The first time I heard about Terrace opting out was Sunday morning. He had a tremendous game. But we’re going to take it day by day. Other players can opt out, that’s the rule. Nobody has talked to me about it. Again, we’ll take it day by day and see.”
On the problems with the offensive line
“We like the spread. We like to keep one back in for protection. We also like to empty it out because you get rid of the ball quick. What happened in this game wasn’t the amount of people that were blocking, it was how we were blocking. They were overloading one side. We turned away from it and those guys came. That’s just scheme. It’s something that we can fix. It wasn’t about bringing extra people into the protection. We like to get as many people as we can out. We had enough people in protection, but we just weren’t sliding it the right way.”
On the direction of the program and do you see light at end of tunnel
“We’re building a championship program. We will be champions again. Recruiting is going well. We got some great young players. We had some stuff we have to get fixed. I know we have to fix it. I’ve done it before, and I’ll do it again.”
On the state of the culture within the program
“I feel good about what we built here over my length as the head coach. I think that we have some things to work on, we have some leadership things to work on. I have some things to work on to get better. Overall, I think we built a great culture inside the building. This year has been a challenge obviously with COVID-19, other stuff going on, has kind of put a little spin on everything. You don’t know when the next guy is going to opt out, who has opted out. I think overall we built a good culture here and we have a good, young foundation.”
On candidates to help replace the production of Marshall
“I’d like to get Arik Gilbert the ball more. I think he is an outstanding player. We can move him out to receiver position. Jontre’ Kirklin is sitting in the wins. Hopefully, we can get Trey Palmer back. We have two great young receivers in Kayshon Boutte and Koy Moore. We have a lot of guys that are hungry to catch the ball. I think the next man up is going to prove they’re very good receivers.”
On the perception the players have of Marshall after leaving two weeks following his address to the team
“I think it’s something we got to deal with. Obviously, he had a change of heart. I thought when he said it, he meant it. The team believed him. Obviously, he had a change of heart. You never can tell what goes on with guys when they talk with their families, people they need to talk to, and they make personal decisions. I think this was a strictly business decision for Terrace. I can’t speak for him. Let him speak for it. Again, we support him. He’s been a great LSU Tiger for us.”
On the different challenges you’ve faced this year with this team
“You always got to represent LSU with pride. The standard performance here is very high. We have not met that, okay?You know what, I’m not going to make any excuses for COVID, for young players. We just got to get the job done. There’s a lot of factors that came into this year. I think the biggest thing was the loss of all those great players. You can look at the NFL today, they’re dominating the NFL.If you want to know why we had a good team, look at the players we lost. Now we have some young players that are going to be just as good, they’re just not there yet.”
On the plan this week with the quarterbacks
“We’re going to see. The game plan throughout the week, surface was wet. The only reason we pulled TJ was to put Max in, to try to do some quarterback runs. We had planned that all week. We thought we could get that done but we couldn’t. We’re going to see this week. We’re going to practice both of them, then we’re make that decision at the end of the week according to the game plan and what we need to get done on offense.”
On the mistakes committed by the offensive line last week
“First of all, you have to look at scheme. We did not have them in the right position a lot of the times. There were some free blitzes coming in. The way we turned the protection, the way we protect, those things can be fixed easily, things that we have done before. There were a couple times we got beat one-on-one. We have to have better together. We have to play better and compete better.”
On the development of Boutte and Moore
“I think they’re ready to play. I think they’re ready to play and will play well. Obviously, there’s some things we need to work on. COVID guys are getting quarantined, not been in practice for a couple weeks, missing some time. That’s hurt them a little bit. I think overall both those guys have demonstrated in practice they’re ready to play.”
On the reasons why the defense has improved
“Simplification, communication, the things we have been working on, having their cleats in the grass, things we’ve been working on. I think the biggest thing that came out of the game was no explosive passes. That was a big improvement for us. We had some explosive runs but didn’t have mistakes where guys were running free down there scoring touchdowns. I thought our man-to-man coverage was great. I thought our plan was great. I thought our defensive line played very well against a very good offensive line. We tackled well. Our linebackers got to the football. We missed a couple of (run) fits on the counter plays, on the big plays. But to hold them for 13 points, 267 yards was a great output by our defense.”
On the reasons why the defense has been better on third down
“Four-man rush and great coverage. All works together. It all starts with the four-man rush, tight coverage. The quarterback doesn’t have a long time to throw the ball, doesn’t have many windows to throw the ball. We had some good pressure on the quarterback, five-man blitzes. Our man-to-man coverage was pretty good.”
On reasons for defense’s relatively dramatic improvement
“The criticism, that’s outside noise. We can’t react to that. We have to control our own mindset within the building. Got to believe in each other, fight for each other. One team, one heartbeat. Coaching staff and players together. I think it’s a combination of Bo (Pelini) learning what our players can and can’t do, and our players learning what they can and can’t do, understanding the scheme better. You can see it working.”
On the result of this season contributing to success in future
“I think you need to build grit within a football team. I think you need to build toughness. The young guys need to learn how to go out there and play and win. But we need to coach them better. I think it’s a combination. Nobody wants to go through a season like this. But I do believe we’re building character and grit and it’s going to pay off for us later on.”
On the challenge the run defense faces against Alabama’s Najee Harris after facing A&M’s Isaiah Spiller
“First of all, they run a little different scheme. This is the best offensive line we see come into Tiger Stadium in years. This is going to be a challenge, one of the best running backs. He’s very physical. They know what they doing. The margin of error is going to be very small. We have to play well up front; we have to tackle. We have to eliminate the explosive plays.”
On motivating the team despite being four-touchdown underdogs
“We never talk about that. That’s never been mentioned. This is Alabama. This is LSU and Alabama. It’s about us. We can control what we can control. Let’s go in there, play our best game we possibly can play.”
On the motivation for your team when it normally faces Alabama with something on the line
“What I tell them this week, tell the team this week, we’re playing Alabama at home. That’s all we need to hear. Playing Alabama is a great rivalry for us, a great game over the years for us, a tremendous challenge. They’re the No. 1 team in the country coming to Tiger Stadium. Let’s play.”
On how the quarterbacks graded out vs. Texas A&M
“The quarterbacks were under the duress. “I can’t put anything on those young quarterbacks. I thought they did the best that they could. They made some mistakes. They made some miss-reads. When there’s free blitzes, they’re attacking them, all that, the young freshman quarterback, we got to have a better scheme number one.”
On trying to limit Alabama’s number of explosive plays
“You got to find where Devonta Smith is, number one. You got to know where he’s at, what he’s going to do. You have to cover him. You may have to double cover him, you may not. If we do have single coverage, we have guys that can do that. You got to be able to eliminate him from getting the ball over the top. (Alabama offensive coordinator Steve) Sarkisian does a good job with his play action pass, called a gap pass. Take shots time after time. Can’t get your safeties too far up to play the run because they throw the ball over your head. I think that’s the number one deal.”
On the difference in your team now than the one that was originally set to face Alabama on Nov. 14.
“Yeah, we have enough people to play. First week, we didn’t have enough people to play. That’s all there was to it. I’m glad we playing them. I glad we got to reschedule. We look forward to playing them.”
On the proliferation of the spread offenses within the SEC
“Yes, no question. No question. Put athletes in space, let them make plays. People scoring a lot of points. The quarterbacks are being groomed in the seven-on-seven league. They’re going in there, it’s quick, it’s shotgun, getting the ball, throwing the ball, throwing it deep. Again, when you have some great athletes like they have, you have success.”
On the problems trying to block being related to the absence of tight end Tory Carter
“Torey will not be available this week. At fourth-and-one, we go hurry up. We got beat at the line of scrimmage. That was a big play in the ballgame. We’re trying to run the leads inside. There was no room to run them. We got to be more creative, get the ball outside and we got to block better.”
On the behind the scenes getting the Alabama game rescheduled
“It’s about LSU. Alabama is a great team, a great program. This is about us, about us getting our team ready to play a great game, doing the best that we possibly can.”