Despite being a coveted five-star prospect as one of the nation’s top wide receivers, Terrace Marshall didn’t have great expectations when he arrived on the LSU campus as an early enrollee in January 2018.
There were two big reasons: Experienced wideouts on the roster like Justin Jefferson, Stephen Sullivan, Derrick Dillon and Dee Anderson, and, Marshall was just four months removed from a devastating leg injury that ruined his senior season at Bossier's Parkway High.
As a result, it was a tough uphill climb to make an impression on the coaching staff while continuing his rehab from a broken fibula and dislocated ankle suffered in Parkway’s second game.
While having the option of sitting out spring drills, the rangy 6-foot-4, 200-pound Marshall was determined to push forward in order to not fall further behind on a depth chart that also included four-star freshman Ja’Marr Chase at the position.
“Me being anxious to play, I went in there (in the spring) and just ran it off,” Marshall said in his first meeting with reporters since enrolling at LSU. “I just fought through the pain and rehabbed. … I fought through it.”
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The only problem was he wasn’t 100 percent healthy by the time the 2018 season started even though he was on the field for the first play of the opener against Miami in a three-wide set with Jefferson and Jonathan Giles.
It turned out to be the only start of the season for Marshall, who had one reception for 3 yards in a 33-17 thrashing of the eighth-ranked Hurricanes.
While mentally ready to play, he said the physical part was the problem; he struggled through the first half of the season even though he had passed the one-year anniversary of his injury in mid-September.
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In LSU’s first six games, Marshall caught five passes for 81 yards with a 52-yarder against Ole Miss. None of his other catches were for more than 9 yards, pedestrian numbers for a speedy receiver who was known as a deep-ball specialist prior to his injury.
“Yeah, that’s kind of how I view my game,” he said without a hint of ego.
As a junior at Parkway, Marshall soared to the top of Louisiana’s list of prospects for 2018 and ranked as the second (Scout) or third (247Sports) wide receiver in the country when he averaged 22.7 yards a catch on 55 receptions with 15 touchdowns.
“Mentally, it was no problem … I was ready to go,” he said of his freshman season. “I wasn’t 100 percent. I just had to fight through the pain and the aches."
The turning point, he said, came in a 36-16 rout of No. 2 Georgia in front of 100,000 fans in Tiger Stadium and a national TV audience.
On LSU’s second possession, he turned a short pass from Joe Burrow into a 6-yard gain on third-and-5 — catching the ball a yard shy of the sticks and carrying cornerback Tyson Campbell across the line to keep the drive alive.
Two plays later, Marshall beat Campbell down the right sideline and made a diving over-the-shoulder catch for a 37-yard gain that set up LSU’s first points of the game.
“The Georgia game, that’s when it clicked,” Marshall said. “I was like, ‘Man, I’m ready,’ and it kind of built up my confidence a little bit.
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“I started getting a feel (of the offense) and started making plays. I started contributing to the team a little bit more than I was earlier in the season. So it was good; I adjusted well.”
Marshall set a collegiate career-high with three catches for 48 yards in a win over Rice and finished the season with 12 receptions for 192 yards while playing in all 13 games — not bad considering what he went through.
“It was a pretty good season,” he said. “I’m grateful to have had the opportunity as a true freshman, so it was good.”
Coach Ed Orgeron and his coaching staff, which includes new passing game coordinator Joe Brady, are hoping to use that as a springboard going into 2019.
Through the first few days of preseason camp, Marshall has been taking first-team reps with Jefferson and Chase after Orgeron promised fans will see more three-, four- and five-wide sets this season.
“I love it. … I love it, man,” Marshall said of the Tigers’ new-look offense and the team’s depth at wide receiver. “It’s spread out wide and everybody can get the ball. Everybody can eat in it, so we’re good.
“We’re going to kill it in this offense. I can’t wait to see what we’re going to do.”
Finally pain-free, as he was in the final four games last fall, and making it through spring practice have Marshall excited and ready to be the five-star prospect he was in high school.
“Yeah, I would say I have a lot up my sleeve,” he said. “I’ve been working hard. The best is yet to come. I haven’t reached my full potential yet.”