Written by Zachary Gartin
If you asked a draft analyst who their top five wide receivers were going into the 2020 college season, almost all of them would include LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase and Alabama’s DeVonta Smith on that list. And for good reason, as both have the tools to be very dynamic NFL receivers and were their teams leading receivers in the 2019-20 season. But these next two pieces are not about them. These articles are about their counterparts, Jaylen Waddle and Terrace Marshall Jr.
In the second article of this two-part series, we are talking about defending National Champ and junior Terrace Marshall Jr. In his first year with the Tigers, Marshall was relegated to a rotational role, only garnering 12 receptions for 192 yards and no touchdowns. That all changed when LSU changed their offense going into the 2019 season. Through the first six games played, Marshall had eight touchdown receptions. Over the entirety of a season as the number three option for Heisman Winner Joe Burrow, Marshall had 46 receptions, 671 yards, and 13 touchdowns. Averaging 14.6 yards per reception, Marshall was at his best as a red zone threat in an offense that heavily featured three other options in Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Justin Jefferson, and Ja’Marr Chase. Only one of those three is still at LSU, leaving a lot of targets on the table for Terrace Marshall Jr. Having all those targets will either lead him to prove his worth or show his deficiencies.
I think it will only lead to Marshall showing his worth. He has all the athletic tools, especially at his size. Marshall stands at 6’4” and 200 pounds and uses his size well, thanks to his great body control while in the air. He always does a great job adjusting his body in traffic to make the tough catch and keep the defender from influencing and attacking the ball. That little twist away from the Oklahoma defender at the end of this catch is a great example of that.
Marshall does it again below, this time against a Clemson. The catch is great, as Marshall does a great job fighting through contact, high pointing the ball, and turning away from the defender to protect it. But don’t ignore the hand fighting in the early part of the route. By swiping the hand of the corner away, Marshall forces the defender into a trail position that makes it so the Marshall is the only one with eyes on the ball. It’s little things like the hand fighting I will hope to see more of as Marshall is forced into a bigger role this next season.
One of my favorite things about Terrace Marshall Jr as a prospect is that he is really good at tracking the football while it’s in the air. He consistently locks onto the football and does a great job of getting himself into the perfect position to catch it. Against Oklahoma he makes the most of a broken play, tracking the ball and high pointing it to get a first down.
Marshall has the athleticism to be a deep threat as well. He is a long strider that doesn’t always accelerate well, but once he gets going Marshall uses his frame and long strides to get a step ahead of most defenders. This post route against Patrick Surtain at the bottom of the screen (one of the top corners in this upcoming draft) showcases that very well. Marshall doesn’t separate immediately off of his inside release, but once he breaks into the second part of the route, he is able to gain some separation.
Even if Marshall has shown the speed needed to be a viable deep threat, bigger receivers will always have questions around their route running and ability to flip their hips during their routes. Marshall has those same questions about his game. At times, like in this Out-n-Up route at the bottom of the screen against Alabama, he shows violent hips on his speed cuts that allow him to get in and out of those breaks very quickly.
On sharper breaks, multi-step breaks, he won’t always have those same violent hips. But as a bigger, stronger wide receiver you don’t always need those super violent hips to win. Here, he threatens the Texas corner (Top of Screen) vertically before lowering his hips and getting around for the curl and first down. Marshall doesn’t stop on a dime here, as he takes about three yards to get in and out of his break. But he is patient enough to wait for the corner to open his hips before going into his break, allowing him enough time to get in and out with a reception.
If you aren’t the quickest guy in and out of breaks, you have to win by being patient. Marshall shows flashes of the patience he will need at the next level quite often. On this touchdown catch against Georgia, Marshall does a great job forcing the corner to open his hips inside before making a nice break outside and getting wide open for the touchdown.
One of the aspects of his game where I think he needs work on is his ability to release against press. One of the main things is that he simply has not had to go against it very often. LSU’s offense does a great job of using formation to limit the amount of interference a receiver encounters at the line of scrimmage. And even when he meets press, he does just fine at the college level. Against this Georgia corner at the bottom of the screen, Marshall gives a little bit of a hesitation move before using his favorite kind of release (an outside speed release) to get a step on the corner. And while this works here, a good NFL corner will do a better job of getting hands-on and not give him a free release outside. Marshall will have to show more often next season that he can hand fight and move a corner off of his spot in press situations.
He has shown that he understands making a corner move off of the spot. This time Marshall encounters press in the slot against Georgia and does a great job jabbing outside to freeze the corner before swiping the hands and getting inside. That initial lateral step gets the corner to lunge, giving Marshall the advantage and helps him get open right off the line. More reps against press will help Marshall prove he can do this on a consistent basis.
Marshall is one of my favorite players going into the 2020 season because he has all the tools, and I was pleasantly surprised throughout his tape about how well-rounded he is as a receiver. A big question I ask myself every time I watch film on a player is “How does he win, and can he do is on a consistent basis?” With Marshall, it’s his ability to be patient while running routes, take advantage of his own speed and athleticism, and track the football to put him in the best position to make a catch. Being in an offense dominated by Ja’Marr Chase, Justin Jefferson, and Clyde Edwards-Helaire hurt not only Marshall’s production but how he was used. Sometimes it seemed that Joe Brady and LSU would just ask Marshall to run a fade to clear out space underneath or run a slant and stay out of the way. Stepping into the number two role behind Chase should only help Marshall show the tools he has and help him raise his stock throughout the season.
I currently have Terrace Marshall Jr. as a 3rd round receiver with a lot of room to grow. His playstyle reminds me of players like Mohammed Sanu and Marvin Jones Jr. Both of these wide receivers are underrated route runners who are at their best tracking the football and attacking it in the air. While Marshall still has a lot to prove going into the 2020 season, I believe he has the potential to be a quality NFL receiver.