Panthers' Terrace Marshall Jr. ready to do his part to help LSU become 'Wide Receiver U'

AP Photo/Brett Duke

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Second-round pick Terrace Marshall Jr. didn’t do much to impress during the Carolina Panthers’ rookie minicamp over the weekend.

The wide receiver out of LSU spent most of the time working on the side with trainers to make sure there were no problems with the left knee he had scoped in January and the medical issues that arose in the pre-draft process -- foot and leg injuries in college and high school -- even though he said, “I’m fully ready to go right now."

“I asked him how long he wanted to play in the NFL," coach Matt Rhule said. “He said, ‘Eight, 10, 15 years.’ I said, 'Well, we’ll start slowly here and build up.'"

It’s how Marshall, 20, finishes that’s important to the Panthers. They expect the 6-foot-2, 200-pound speedster to fall in line with the other great receivers out of LSU that are turning what for the past decade has been known as “Defensive Back U" into “Wide Receiver U."

“There’s a lot of talent coming out of there," Marshall said. “We all produce."

There was nothing humble about Jamal Adams and others dubbing the program “DBU" a few years ago. Evidence was on their side. The Tigers produced five defensive backs -- four corners -- that were first-round picks between 2011-17.

Adams, the sixth overall pick in 2016, Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu and Tre’Davious White all became first-team All-Pro selections. Peterson is an eight-time Pro Bowl selection.

But since 2014, when Odell Beckham Jr. went 12th overall and Jarvis Landry 63rd, receivers gradually have taken over top billing. LSU and Clemson have had 10 receivers drafted since then, tied for the most of any school. The schools also are tied for the most receiver Pro Bowl selections during that time with 10 each, according to ESPN Stats & Info.

If you focus on the first two rounds since 2014, LSU is tied with Alabama with six wideouts selected, three in the first round. Only one Tigers corner (White) has gone in the first round during that span.

This year’s draft epitomized the transition. LSU wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase went No. 5 overall to Cincinnati and Marshall 59th to Carolina. The two LSU defensive backs chosen didn’t go until the sixth and seventh rounds.

Panthers offensive coordinator Joe Brady and what he did with the LSU offense in 2019 as the pass-game coordinator had a lot to do with speeding up the process.

Marshall, Chase and Justin Jefferson, a first-round pick last season by Minnesota, all played on the national championship team in Brady’s scheme that produced 5,208 receiving yards and 55 receiving touchdowns.

“He helped us get to where we are," Marshall said.

Marshall law

Marshall has been compared to Jefferson (6-1, 202), who last season set an NFL rookie record with 1,400 receiving yards and made the Pro Bowl.

Both can play multiple receiver positions, even though Brady kept them primarily at one spot in 2019, and both have the speed to stretch the field. Jefferson ran the 40 in 4.43 seconds at the 2020 combine and Marshall posted a 4.38 at his pro day.

The aforementioned history of injuries remains the biggest concern about Marshall. He missed three games in 2019 with a stress fracture in his foot and opted out after the seventh game last season to prepare for the draft, then had his knee scoped.

While being cautious with Marshall in rookie camp, Rhule said the Panthers still had a first-round grade on the player he calls an “elite athlete."

“He’s a big, fast, strong, athletic guy," he said. “His best football is ahead of him."

That Marshall has experience with Brady should help his transition to the NFL. In 2019, despite playing in only 12 of LSU’s 15 games and sharing the offense with Jefferson and Chase, he still had 46 catches for 671 yards and 13 touchdowns.

He expects to be just as productive or more so in a Carolina offense that includes a pair of 1,000-yard receivers from 2020 in DJ Moore and Robby Anderson, and dual-threat running back Christian McCaffrey, who in 2019 topped 1,000 yards receiving.

“You’re on the field, the only thing on your mind should be eating," Marshall said.

That Marshall can play in the slot at his size could make for nightmare matchups that last year’s slot receiver, Curtis Samuel, couldn’t produce at 5-11.

“He's a good fit," Brady told the team website after the draft. "All I can say is, we have a great vision for him as a Carolina Panther. The skill set he has is going to be a great asset to our offense.

“Not too many people are 6-2, 200-plus and run a 4.3, and are able to make plays on the ball like Terrace does."

No. 88 returns

While Rhule calls Marshall humble, there’s no lack of confidence. Marshall chose No. 88, last worn in Carolina by ever-popular tight end Greg Olsen in 2019.

He chose it because that was his high school number. He also grew up a fan of Dez Bryant, a big receiver who wore 88 as a three-time Pro Bowl selection for Dallas.

“I’m starting my own legacy," Marshall said.

Panthers first-round pick Jaycee Horn, a cornerback out of South Carolina who saw Marshall catch six passes for 88 yards and two touchdowns in a 52-24 loss in 2020, sees nothing but upside.

“Jefferson had a lot of success in the NFL [last year]," Horn said. “Terrace isn’t going to be any different. Being that size and moving like a little guy, really slippery and running great routes, I really feel like he has every tool to be a great receiver."

Marshall also hopes to uphold the legacy LSU has in producing star NFL receivers. Before Beckham, the program hadn’t had a receiver go in the first round since 2007, and only two went in the first two rounds between 2005 and ’14.

“He just paved the way for the rest of the guys," Marshall said of Beckham. “He definitely inspired me to be a great receiver."