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Why did Bengals star Ja’Marr Chase pull out of the junior season at LSU for the NFL Draft?

Why did Bengals star Ja'Marr Chase pull out of the junior season at LSU for the NFL Draft?

Bengals wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase looks set to achieve NFL fame after his first regular season, one in which the rookie compiled 82 receptions, 1,455 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns.

This is after taking a year off from full-time football to prepare for the 2021 NFL Draft.

Chase made the critical decision in August 2020 to forgo his final year of eligibility at LSU — where he was a unanimous All-America selection and the Biletnikoff Award winner the previous year — in order to prioritize himself ahead of his career. professional. But it was a decision heavily shaped by the circumstances at the time, not just the potential money Chase could make if he remained healthy.

With that, Sporting News breaks down Chase’s decision to opt out of his junior season at LSU:

Why did Ja’Marr Chase withdraw from LSU?

Chase didn’t mince words when he announced his decision to retire from LSU. In a since-deleted Tweet, Chase said he was putting himself and his family first amid the COVID-19 pandemic. While he said he wanted to play for the Tigers another season, that desire wasn’t enough for him to continue playing collegiately.

“The competitor in me really wants to play the season and wage war with my brothers, but during this time with so much going on, it’s best for my family,” Chase wrote in his statement. “I can’t ignore what I feel in my heart, and this is ultimately the best decision for me. I can’t wait to get back on the pitch in 2021.”

According to a CBS Report, however, the decision was not entirely based on the COVID-19 pandemic. Rather, agents may have simply contacted him and persuaded him to leave LSU to prepare for the 2021 NFL Draft. Chase was considered one of the best receivers in all of college football in his second campaign, when he caught 84 passes for 1,780 yards and 20 touchdowns from Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Joe Burrow.

Ja’Marr Chase’s father, Jimmy Chase, said Baton Rouge WAFB TV Channel that the pandemic, coupled with nationwide outrage and protests over social inequality and racial injustice, has led the Chase family to make a decision about the receiver’s future.

“Ja’Marr struggled with his feelings and his emotions, and it was just non-stop,” Jimmy Chase said. “It’s just an unprecedented time right now. He struggled to play, but he struggled (also) to look at his future, and what could and could not be.

Jimmy Chase added that if “everything was normal” his son would probably have played in 2021.

MORE: NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year odds: Ja’Marr Chase vs. Mac Jones comes down to wire

Did Ja’Marr Chase opt-out cause him to lose bullets?

From a financial standpoint, Chase’s decision to pull out of LSU for his junior season paid off. He was selected fifth overall by the Bengals and was the top receiver in the 2021 NFL Draft (if you don’t count tight end Kyle Pitts, taken one spot ahead of him by the Falcons).

But the move created uncertainty for the rookie, especially in the preseason, where he dropped four balls in three games and recorded just one catch for 16 yards. Chase’s difficulty catching passes from his former college teammate raised the question of whether his absence from full-speed football had set him back; he hadn’t played at full speed in over a year and a half, dating back to the 2020 College Football Playoff championship game against Clemson.

Chase went on to explain why he had a harder time adjusting to the NFL:

“The ball is different because it’s bigger,” Chase said, via Bengals.com. “There are no white stripes on the side, so you can’t see the ball coming from the tip point, so you have to look for the strings on the ball at the top, which is hard to see because (the the whole ball is brown and you have the six strings which are white.

“But for the most part it just takes getting used to and finding out what I’m comfortable catching.”

Hunt added:

“My drops come from not looking at the ball. Looking at the ball, I’m talking about pointing it high and looking at it and as soon as it hits you you look away,” he said. “Me running before the catch. Me doing stuff like that and dropping it. I’ve done that a few times.”

MORE: Ja’Marr Chase by the numbers: Rookie WR has Randy Moss performance in Bengals win over Chiefs

Whatever problems Chase had catching the ball during the preseason seemed to go away once the games counted. In his NFL regular season debut, he caught five passes on five targets for 101 yards and a score in a 27-24 win over the Vikings. After the match, he admitted to hearing criticism about his stray balls.

“I heard that,” Chase said at the time. “It’s just bad language. Just block out the noise.”

Chase didn’t quite have the offensive explosion in any of his next three games, but was solid throughout: He combined to catch 12 receptions for 197 yards and three more touchdowns (including a two-out touchdowns in a 24-10 win over the Steelers).

The rookie has since played four more games with at least 100 yards, rushing for 159 yards and a touchdown against the Packers in Week 5; 201 yards and a score against the Ravens in Week 7; 125 yards against the Ravens in Week 16; and a rookie single-game record 266 yards and three touchdowns against the Chiefs in Week 17.

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