Opt-out alums own LSU Pro Day

Scooter Hobbs

Remind me again what LSU’s football record was last season.

Wasn’t it something like 5-5? And that was only after a shocking shoe-in-your-face win over Florida.

Yes, pretty sure that was it — needed a major upset just to break even.

So this is really all the more puzzling. You consider that about the only good thing from that was that most of the Tigers who suffered through it broke long-standing tradition and decided to come back for next season to fill out there eligibility.

So what was all this buzz about after LSU’s Pro Day? You know, it’s the exercise dedicated for the Tigers’ pro football aspirants to prove how good a track star they could be? It’s when LSU is running around through these company picnic-type, exercises that NFL scouts find must-see TV and take copious notes.

When LSU does it, it even gets televised on the SEC Network, as it was Wednesday.

And there was the usual excitement after the usual shock-and-awe performances.

Been there, seen that … but wait.

This team went 5-5 last season.

Yet it was like nothing ever changed. Business as usual.

There was a Biletnikoff Award winner, as the nation’s best wide receiver, proving it was no fluke by clipping off a 4.38-second 40-yard dash easy as you please.

Ja’Marr Chase, I think they said it was.

Oh, of course. I thought that name sounded familiar. Just can’t quite place him.

But now he just turned some more heads with a 42-inch vertical leap.

I know I’ve seen that guy … and now he just popped off a 10-foot standing broad jump or maybe it was the sack race. Hard to tell.

But it was impressive.

How in the world did the Tigers go 5-5 with that kind of …?

Wait.

Chase didn’t actually play for the Tigers, not last season at least.

But now he’s running real football routes and snagging passes with that fluid, easy style, just a natural, so effortless.

Yes, that looks familiar. And now I remember. Saw a lot of that in 2019 — 1,780 yards worth for 20 touchdowns.

Kind of wondered whatever happened to him.

We all saw his battery mate, Joe Burrow, go first overall in last year’s NFL draft, but he was fresh out of eligibility. Chase just kind of fell off the radar.

Oh yeah. Chase opted out for his junior season last year, citing COVID-19 concerns.

The Tigers probably could’ve used something like him during last season’s national championship hangover.

But he certainly didn’t appear rusty from his fall R&R, and probably removed any doubt Wednesday that he’s a top-five pick in the upcoming draft.

There was more.

Chase had one of four sub-4.4 times in the 40-yard times by former Tigers on the day.

There was also defensive back Kary Vincent, which also sounds familiar but I don’t remember him on the field during 5-5 either.

Great little defensive back — can play everywhere in the secondary. And also another opt-out.

So he didn’t help the Tigers much either last season. But he probably helped his draft stock Wednesday with tidy little 4.33 in the 40.

So did defensive tackle Tyler Shelvin, who you also might remember from the national championship, just by showing up at a relatively svelte 360 pounds (when the betting over/under among fans was measured somewhere in cargo tonnage).

But apparently he spent his time well, too, or at least relatively far from the buffet.

Terrace Marshall, another receiving star from the magical 2019 season, was a little more familiar, and he made his case for the first round with a 4.38 in the 40. He stuck around until the second half of last season before exercising his constitutional right to opt out.

As for those who actually played last year, there wasn’t much excitement.

Linebacker Jabril Cox pulled a muscle warming up and couldn’t show his wares. Maybe JaCoby Stevens shined a bit. Tory Carter, Racey McMath and punter Zach Von Rosenberg were all trying to get a shot on NFL special teams.

So it was really as much LSU’s Opt-Out Day as it was the Tigers’ Pro Day.

But all were welcomed with equal open arms for the affair.

“I’m proud of these guys for putting themselves in position to take the next step of their football careers,” head coach Ed Orgeron said.

He might have looked at some of what he was missing during last year by getting a final glimpse of what seemed to make it so easy in 2019. He would have been excused for wondering how much some of them might have eased the struggles of 2020.

But he doesn’t.

And that’s the way it should be.

Particularly in the pandemic year, it’s hard to question any individual decisions players make. They all had their reasons.

And the NFL long ago proved that if you’ve got talent, it doesn’t care if you stick around for your final bowl game or even opt out for the whole season.

The Tigers’ major recruiting pitch seems to be that LSU is a fast track to the NFL. There’s the whole NFLSU branding that they bandy about.

You can’t blame them when they take you up on it.

l

Scooter Hobbs covers LSU

athletics. Email him at

shobbs@americanpress.com””Scooter Hobbs updated

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