A new bejeweled 'J' hung from Justin Jefferson's necklace.

The LSU wide receiver's mother, Elaine, gifted him the pendant a month ago.

'J' for what? 'J' for "J-Jets."

That's what his high school friends nicknamed him back at Destrehan High, when the youngest brother of former LSU stars, Jordan and Rickey, averaged 21.7 yards per catch during his senior season.

J-Jets first took flight in Baton Rouge in 2018, catching a 65-yard bomb against Ole Miss for his first career touchdown.

The 6-foot-3, 192-pound Jefferson was Joe Burrow's top target by far last season. His 54 catches, 875 yards and six touchdowns were all statistics that were twice as much (or more) than any other LSU receiver.

That proportion is expected to change in LSU's re-tooled spread offense this season, when the Tigers debut a passing attack built to uncork the talented receiver depth the program has possessed for several years.

Constructed by first-year passing game coordinator Joe Brady and offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger, the new system has invigorated a receiving corps that now expects to make the explosive plays LSU coach Ed Orgeron demanded more of last season.

"It's gonna be a big passing year for us," Jefferson said Monday.

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Those surrounding the LSU football program have long boasted the self-proclaimed title of "DBU," often pointing toward the 46 Tigers defensive backs who have been drafted by NFL franchises since 1966.

LSU's wide receiver total (34) isn't too far behind.

Seven LSU wide receivers have been drafted since 2012, and four of them — DJ Chark (Jacksonville Jaguars), Odell Beckham (New York Giants), Jarvis Landry (Miami Dolphins), Reuben Randle (Giants) — were drafted within the first two rounds.

Only Ohio State (9), Clemson (8), Georgia (8) and Oklahoma (8) have produced more drafted NFL wide receivers in that span.

Despite being at the top of the nation in professional production, LSU hasn't been able to produce the same firepower as their peer programs.

Last season, Oklahoma (2nd), Ohio State (4th) and Clemson (6th) were among the Top 10 in teams that produced the most passing plays of 30-plus yards.

LSU was tied for 39th.

Despite a promise to use a more spread out offense, the Tigers mostly maintained a commitment to the run, averaging 43 rushes to 30 passes per game.

Georgia, which tied for 61st in 30-plus yard passing plays in 2018, had the same commitment, although the Bulldogs produced two 1,000-yard rushers in D'Andre Swift and Elijah Holyfield.

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LSU's limited passing power stemmed mostly from poor protection, an issue exacerbated by frequent injuries on the offensive line that made for a revolving door of a starting rotation.

The Tigers offense first started to shift toward the spread in the Fiesta Bowl, when Ensminger decided that spreading running backs and wide receivers out on pass routes, instead of using them as extra blockers, would alleviate quarterback pressure because Burrow would have multiple, quicker passing options.

The decision's effect on the explosive passing game was clear: Burrow threw five passes of 30-plus yards in LSU's 40-32 win over Central Florida, and three of the passes went for touchdowns.

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Brady has said LSU is expanding more on that spread concept in 2019, when the Tigers will use a heavy rotation of receivers that will be scattered across the field instead of being restrained to specific positions.

Jefferson will be playing more near the slot this season, which LSU wide receiver coach Mickey Joseph said could draw opponent cornerbacks inward, creating a mismatch for the other receivers on the outside.

And that's where the deep threat options open up: sophomores Ja'Marr Chase and Terrace Marshall, who both had receptions of over 40 yards in 2018, or junior Racey McMath, who Jefferson calls "a big, big massive receiver that can go up and catch the ball."

True freshman Trey Palmer caught a long touchdown in Saturday's scrimmage, center Lloyd Cushenberry said, and Devonta Lee has gained a reputation for making crazy catches over LSU defensive backs.

Jefferson said Lee made a touchdown catch a few days ago during a red zone drill, when Lee reached over the helmet of a cornerback on a fade route to catch the football.

"Too many," Jefferson said. "We have too many deep threats."

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The updated offense includes another wrinkle: wide receivers will now be reading defensive coverages during plays, which will dictate where their routes will flow.

Jefferson said LSU didn't "put that much emphasis on reading the defenses last year," when the receiving corps was partially coached by former long-time NFL wide receiver coach Jerry Sullivan.

Reading coverages was left to the quarterbacks, and the receivers relied on routes and technique to get open.

Now, Brady is coaching the LSU receivers to notice when they're being defended by a man or a zone coverage, or if a cornerback is pressing them tightly before the snap or giving them space.

In certain run-pass option plays, Burrow and the receivers can make a pre-snap decision to throw a quick hitch when a defender is playing off.

And with Jefferson near the slot, he said he's reading the linebackers and safeties, "knowing when to turn out, turn in," to find the spot where Burrow can hit him in open space.

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Sophomore outside linebacker K'Lavon Chaisson has noticed Jefferson's shiftiness, saying Jefferson probably wins about 70 percent of their one-on-one matches.

Mixed in with tight end routes over the middle, Jefferson's threat on the inside can draw enough attention from defensive backs to leave a one-on-one opportunity for wide receivers like Chase or Marshall on the outside.

And that's when the downfield bombs fly. 

"Everybody opens up everything for everybody," junior tight end Thaddeus Moss said. 

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But with the extra responsibility given to receivers, there is now a heightened need for Burrow and the receivers to be on the same page. There's possible volatility where receivers may decide to go one way, when Burrow is anticipating them to go another.

Jefferson said all the receivers got together with Burrow every Saturday during the summer at 10 a.m., and they constantly ran through plays and refined communication.

"With (Burrow), it's timing," Chase said. "He wants a certain depth on his routes. He wants us to be ready for the ball, 'cause he said he doesn't know who he's throwing it to. So he always wants us to be ready for it."

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And on deep balls?

Jefferson said Brady has taught them to keep their head down and finish their route before looking for the ball, which should already be in the air.

Cushenberry watched from the sidelines during Saturday's scrimmage, watching the second team as Palmer executed the deep route technique perfectly, running directly under a Myles Brennan deep ball while on a dead sprint.

"I feel like we have the best receiver room in the country," Cushenberry said. "Every one of those guys can go for 1,000 yards this year... It's a lot of speed. It's going to be fun to watch for sure."

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Email Brooks Kubena at bkubena@theadvocate.com.