After practice last Thursday night, three LSU wide receivers went to a convenience store where they ordered an array of fried chicken and fried rice.
They started eating together when they became teammates last year. They had often gone to Waffle House, but two days before they played Texas, someone craved The Blue Store.
“We've eaten at Waffle House way too many times,” Justin Jefferson said. “I don't even want to eat it anymore.”
The players — Jefferson, Terrace Marshall and Ja’Marr Chase — took their food outside. As they ate their meals, they talked about expectations and potential. They came from different cities in Louisiana, but within LSU’s new offense, they had formed a receiving corps on the cusp of a breakout performance.
The three receivers agreed they would set records together this season. None of them expected what happened against the Longhorns. During the win, each of them recorded more than 100 yards receiving, the first time in LSU history three receivers had done so in one game.
“I felt like that was going to happen sooner or later,” Jefferson said, “but I didn't think it was going to happen in the second game of the season. Especially on Texas.”
Talented receivers, such as Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, have played for LSU at the same time. They did not have an offense like this one. LSU consistently places three wide receivers on the field, sometimes four or five. Passing game coordinator Joe Brady teaches concepts instead of routes. The receivers run at different levels. They adjust to coverages, finding open space in the defense. They spread the field.
Through two games, LSU is one of two FBS teams with three players in the top-65 of receiving yards per game. The other? Washington State. And if Marshall, Jefferson and Chase continue their per game averages, they will each eclipse 1,000 yards receiving by the end of a potential bowl game.
"As long as we can protect the quarterback," coach Ed Orgeron said, "the sky's the limit for them."
Two days after beating Texas, Chase sat next to a table inside LSU’s practice facility. He answered questions. Jefferson walked up and stood over him, folding his arms across his chest.
“He's sad,” Chase said.
“That was my first impression,” Chase said. “He can't catch, either.”
“It's cool,” Jefferson said. “It's cool.”
The three receivers didn’t know one another well before they came to LSU. Jefferson, who’s a year older, heard of them at football camps. Chase knew Marshall in high school, but they lived on opposite ends of the state, separated by more than a five-hour drive.
The youngest of three brothers to play at LSU, Jefferson came to one of the Tigers’ football camps in high school. He impressed coaches when he ran a sluggo route, and though he almost wasn’t academically eligible, LSU saved him a scholarship.
Marshall signed last year as the No. 1 player in Louisiana — even though he missed almost his entire senior year because of a broken fibula and dislocated ankle. Chase came in the same recruiting class. When Chase arrived, he thought Jefferson had walked onto the team.
Last season, Jefferson dominated the targets, catching twice as many passes as any other LSU receiver. Chase never quite broke out. Marshall had not fully recovered from his injuries, decreasing his speed.
The receivers formed a friendship, an almost inevitable development as they spent the majority of their time together. Chase discovered Jefferson lived next door, so they played video games. The group ate together after practice. They created a group message with the rest of LSU's receivers. They ran routes with quarterback Joe Burrow during the offseason, improving their timing.
The week of LSU’s first game, the receivers laughed at Marshall because he didn’t score last year. Then, he caught three touchdowns against Georgia Southern.
"I think,” Burrow said, “he put it back in their face scoring three.”
LSU’s offense started slow against Texas, scoring three points on its first three possessions. Chase didn’t touch the ball until the end of the second quarter. He kept running downfield, trying to create space. So did Marshall. So did Jefferson.
LSU’s offense picked up yards in large chunks as the three receivers took over. On one drive, Chase caught a 41-yard pass over a defender, Jefferson gained 12 yards and Marshall pulled down a 26-yard touchdown.
By the end, they had each set a new career-high in receiving yards. Jefferson caught three touchdowns, including the 61-yard game-winner. And the next day, NFL Hall of Fame wide receiver Randy Moss highlighted Chase during a television segment.
“I would love to have the ball come to me,” Jefferson said, “but having those guys eat with me? All I want to do is win a national championship, so if it takes all of us getting 100 yards every game, then that's what it's going to be.”
On Monday evening, after they had finished their interviews, Chase stood by a door, waiting to leave LSU’s indoor practice facility. Jefferson walked toward him.
“My crew!” Chase said, snapping twice. “Let’s go.”
“Bro,” Jefferson said, “You got to stop talking to me like that.”
Though Chase, Marshall and Jefferson are all on pace to enter LSU’s top-10 for receiving yards in a season, they believe they can improve. Every day, even if one of them had a record-setting game, they have discussed how much better they can be.
“We want to embarrass the opponent,” Jefferson said.
Playing together the last year has formed a friendship amongst the three receivers. They have celebrated their success, danced together in the end zone and created a competitive environment at practice. They make one another better. They also give one another grief.
“Terrace had three touchdowns the first game,” Jefferson said. “I had three touchdowns the second game. We told Ja'Marr he has to have three touchdowns this game. If not, he's got to be demoted.”
That’s part of their friendship. They eat together. They play video games together. They make one another laugh. They have formed a relationship they think will last through their careers, maybe longer, strengthening it with time and success.
“You don't want to have receivers who aren't friends," Chase said. "They might get mad they're not getting the ball. With us, we really don't care. We're happy to see each other eat.”
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