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Better Know a Freshman: Terrace Marshall

Gifted receiver looks to break the cycle.

Finding receiver talent has never been an issue for LSU. The state is typically bubbling with players at the position and in the rare case it isn’t, the staff frequently dips into Texas and Florida to fill the gaps. Every single one of LSU’s current wideouts hails from those three states and the 2018 signing class only adds to it with an additional four receivers from the state of Louisiana.

The 2018 cycle proved to be a banner year for receivers in the state of Louisiana. Four of the state’s 10 best players, and three of the top five, were wideouts, and only two of those were in the group that signed with LSU.

Accruing the talent hasn’t been the issue for LSU in the past decade. Maximizing those talents continues to be a work in progress. Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. are the only receivers to hit the 1,000 yard total in recent history and a full class of players have came and went since that happened. They were the only ones in the Miles era to hit that threshold. Michael Clayton in 2003 was the last LSU receiver to hit 1,000 yards before Beckham and Landry. It’s truly confounding to look through the quality of receiver talent signed to LSU and the jarring lack of production that comes along with them.

Terrace Marshall wants to break that trend.

The Story

Marshall is a player that attracted attention at an early age. The Shreveport native was first offered by a handful of teams during the spring of his sophomore year. First to offer was TCU, followed by Missouri, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, and Mississippi State. All before Marshall took a visit to Baton Rouge in February of that year and received his LSU offer. Two weeks later, he took a similar trip to Tuscaloosa and walked away with an Alabama offer. Suffice it to say, he’s been a national recruit from a very early age and could have picked his future college destination from a lengthy list of suitors.

Marshall’s recruitment proceeded quietly. Unlike many LSU signees, he did entertain other offers, frequently taking unofficial visits around the country. He took a particular liking to Texas A&M, making half a dozen visits to College Station prior to his senior season. Early into his senior season, Marshall fractured his fibula and dislocated his ankle, ending his season early.

He set up official visits to Alabama, Texas A&M, FSU, Texas and LSU, though the world knew this would boil down to a battle between the Aggies and the Tigers, with LSU being the presumptive favorite. When A&M fired Sumlin, most presumed that all but wrapped up Marshall to LSU. But the hiring of Jimbo Fisher kept Marshall interested. Marshall had a relationship with Fisher from his time at FSU, so Fisher at a closer destination proved really appealing. LSU stayed on Marshall, routinely emphasizing him as a top priority in the 2018 signing class. As the early signing period neared, Marshall heavily debated which of the two SEC West schools would get his commitment.

In the end, the efforts of area recruiter and now LSU offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger would be rewarded when Marshall pledged to LSU in an emotional ceremony on ESPN. Marshall enrolled early in Baton Rouge and is on campus now back from injury and practicing with the team.

The Numbers

110 - 101 = Franchise Player. One of the best players to come along in years, if not decades. Odds of having a player in this category every year is slim. This prospect has “can’t miss” talent.

100 - 98 = Five-star prospect. One of the top 30 players in the nation. This player has excellent pro-potential and should emerge as one of the best in the country before the end of his career. There will be 32 prospects ranked in this range in every football class to mirror the first round of the NFL Draft.

97 - 90 = Four-star prospect. One of the top 300 players in the nation. This prospect will be an impact-player for his college team. He is an All-American candidate who is projected to play professionally.

89 - 80 = Three-star prospect. One of the top 10% players in the nation. This player will develop into a reliable starter for his college team and is among the best players in his region of the country. Many three-stars have significant pro potential.

79 - below = Two-star prospect. This player makes up the bulk of Division I rosters. He may have little pro-potential, but is likely to become a role player for his respective school.

247 Composite Ranking: *****
247 Composite Rating: .9930

Marshall is ranked as one of the very best recruits in the entire 2018 signing class and the No. 3 receiver in the 247 composite. Evaluators routinely praise his natural receiving talent and how smoothly he glides for a 6-3 receiving target. While he remained ranked highly, it’s fair to argue Marshall would have received even more national attention if not for his unfortunate injury, which rendered him unable to compete at the Under Armour All-American game. Marshall is more than physical gifts, as he racked up 55 catches for 2,593 yards and 30 touchdowns without even having a senior season. In a sea of talented and productive receivers that have made their way to LSU in the last decade, Marshall may be the very best.

The Film

There’s not really enough superlatives to describe Marshall’s game. The physical traits are obvious. He’s tall and long. His stature reminds me a lot of AJ Green who was never as physically dominating as say, Calvin Johnson (who is?!), but was always this long, graceful athlete. Marshall has that similar silkiness on the field. It looks like everything he does is in slow motion but yet no one can catch him. He’s not just a big, tall guy that can run down the field and catch a jump ball. He can make plays in the screen game too. I love his combination of short area quickness and long speed. He’ll probably never time out like D.J. Chark, but he runs plenty fast for a 6-3 receiver and he knows how to use his speed to create separation in routes.

Look, he’s not asked to run a complicated route tree at this stage, so he’ll have some learning to do there, but you can see him run the deep post, the way he varies his speed to stutter step and then hit the jets to blow by defenders. There’s serious potential there for him to unpack when it comes to route running.

Marshall is a hands catcher and a guy that really plays the ball in the air naturally. He’s got some learning to do to perfect technique as a route runner, but he’s got all the physical tools to be a great one.

The Future

You can throw a rock and find big, tall wideouts that can run in Louisiana. Most are of the purely athletic variety but lack the football polish that really distinguishes a truly great receiver. What makes Marshall special is his blend of special raw athletic ability and natural football gifting. Marshall doesn’t just look like a very talented athlete besting his competition by simply being more athletic. He plays like a student of the game, knowing how to use his athletic traits to his advantage depending on the situation.

Marshall comes to an LSU receiver depth chart that is now long on options that lack distinction. There are 4 and 5 stars galore, none of which have proven much of anything in an LSU uniform. In the short term, Jonathan Giles seems poised to take a leading role in the offense, but after him no single player did enough in 2017 to demand a major role in 2018. In fact, early reports suggest a player that the staff added late in the process 2017, Justin Jefferson, may be positioning himself for a prominent role.

Where does Marshall fit into that mix? Well, assuming he’s 100-percent back physically and mentally, I do think he’s a bit more raw than you would expect from a player you expect to play a big role as a freshman. That doesn’t mean he won’t have any role, but he may be a year away from really being one of the top options in the passing game.

That said, the cream rises and Marshall is among the most talented players on the roster at his position.

High End: All-American, 1st round draft pick
Low End: Another solid starter that never stands out nationally.
Realistic: All-Conference and part of the next great LSU receiver duo with Ja’Marr Chase