LSU star wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase informed the team that he is choosing to opt out of the 2020 college football season to concentrate on his professional career, sources close to the situation told CBS Sports on Sunday. Chase confirmed his departure from LSU in a lengthy social media statement on Monday, though he did not state a specific intent to declare for the 2021 NFL Draft.
“The competitor in me badly wants to play the season and go to war with my brothers, but during this time with so much going on, this is what’s best for my family,” Chase wrote as part of his statement. “… I cannot ignore what I feel in my heart, and this ultimately is the best decision for me. I’ll look forward to returning to the field in 2021.”
Sources told CBS Sports on Sunday that Chase’s decision is not specifically related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Rather, it is believed agents may have simply convinced Chase to leave before his third collegiate season. NFL rules state a player cannot be drafted until three years after his high school graduation.
Chase, a rising junior, is the most notable college football player to opt out of the 2020 season. The unanimous First Team All-America selection set SEC records last season for touchdown catches (20) and receiving yards (1,780). He won the Biletnikoff Award given annually to the nation’s best receiver.
Chase is expected to be the first wideout selected in the 2021 NFL Draft and could be a top-five pick.
The 6-foot, 208-pound former five-star prospect from Harvey, Louisiana, played two seasons at LSU.
Combining with quarterback Joe Burrow, Chase helped engineer post one of the best seasons in college football history last year. The Tigers finished 15-0 after beating Clemson in the College Football Playoff National Championship. In that game, Chase came up huge catching nine passes for 221 yards and two touchdowns.
Now there must be further rebuilding with quarterback Myles Brennan taking over for Burrow and LSU expected not to have its top playmaker when the SEC’s fall season kicks off on Sept. 26.