Former LSU coach Les Miles was apparently not a believer in Ja’Marr Chase’s ability to play wide receiver at a high level.
The Bengals star rookie receiver told reporters at his news conference on Wednesday that during his recruitment Miles preferred him to play cornerback. While Miles recruited Chase while Chase was in high school in Louisiana, he never coached him at LSU.
"I can tell you honestly, one of my best stories ever. Les Miles told me I couldn’t play receiver when I was coming out of high school," Chase said ahead of Sunday’s AFC championship game against the Kansas City Chiefs. "So that was something I had on my shoulders growing up. Les Miles told me he thought I could play cornerback. I wasn’t really at the full position of receiver yet so I just kept working at my craft in the offseason, waking up early in the mornings to work out. I just kept focused."
Chase’s story is the second time an NFL star has said Miles initially wanted him to play a different position in college. Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott was first recruited as a tight end by Miles and LSU before he chose Mississippi State and the chance to play quarterback.
Miles was fired midway through the 2016 season at LSU and spent the 2017 and 2018 seasons out of coaching before coaching at Kansas for two seasons. Chase, a member of the recruiting class of 2018, was a four-star recruit and an immediate contributor at wide receiver for LSU under Ed Orgeron.
Chase played in 10 games as a freshman in 2018 and had 23 catches for 313 yards and three TDs. He exploded in 2019 with 84 catches for 1,780 yards and 20 TDs as LSU went 15-0 and won the national title. After the Bengals took Chase’s college teammate Joe Burrow with the No. 1 pick in the 2020 draft, Chase sat out the 2020 college football season to prep for the 2021 NFL draft, where the Bengals picked him with the No. 5 pick.
Chase has immediately become one of the most dynamic wide receivers in the NFL. He had 81 catches for 1,455 yards and 13 TDs in the regular season and torched the Chiefs in the Bengals’ Week 17 win over Kansas City. The Chiefs kept leaving Chase in single coverage and he had his best game as a pro with 11 catches for 266 yards and three touchdowns in the 34-31 win.
You can bet that the Chiefs will be employing a different defensive strategy on Sunday to keep Chase in check — it’d be malpractice to attempt what they did in December. And we’re also guessing that Miles would like to have that evaluation of Chase back, even if he never came close to coaching Chase at LSU.