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2021 NFL Draft

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Chase's LSU Ties Extend To Bengals Coaching Staff

Ja'Marr Chase during that magical 2019 season.
Ja'Marr Chase during that magical 2019 season.

Bengals assistant wide receivers coach Brad Kragthorpe, who threw balls to Odell Beckham Jr., and Jarvis Landry before coaching the guy that high-pointed all their records away at LSU, knew exactly what he was going to see Friday afternoon when Ja'Marr Chase walked through the Paul Brown Stadium door.

"An unassuming strength," said Kragthorpe as he waited for Chase's arrival from Cleveland and the draft. "When you seem him in person, the way his lower body is filled out and his upper body. He's built like a running back and he uses his speed, explosion and movement skills to play efficiently at receiver."

Quarterback Joe Burrow isn't going to be the only familiar face for Chase once he gets settled PBS after Thursday night's selection at No. 5. Before joining Bengals heads coach Zac Taylor's staff in 2019, Kragthorpe was an offensive analyst at LSU the season Chase was a freshman and Burrow transferred from Ohio State.

During 2018, Kragthorpe helped put together what would end up being one of the greatest college offensive seasons in history. The Fiesta Bowl, a 40-32 win over Central Florida, flashed like a lighthouse as Burrow passed for 394 yards with Chase catching 93 of them and a touchdown. Future NFL Rookie of the Year candidate Justin Jefferson added two scores and 87 yards on the other side.

"They were playing for the first time," Kragthorpe said. "Justin was a sophomore, Ja'Marr was a true freshman. Joe had come in without a lot of playing time at Ohio State. That '18 season was a real growing process for them. You could see, especially as the year went on, they just progressed and got better and better as the year went on, culminating in that bowl game when we beat UCF. You could see what it was going to become and how good those guys were."

Kragthorpe, a backup quarterback at LSU for two seasons when Beckham and Landry were scraping the Baton Rouge skies, puts Chase's playmaking in that same category.

"Incredible ball skills," Kragthorpe said.  "I can recall his first training camp, just him flashing those ball skills. It made me think back immediately to guys like Odell and Jarvis. He has explosive traits not many guys have. He does things not many 6-foot receivers can do."

Kragthorpe loves his competitiveness and how he plays with an edge. Every LSU coach you talk to raves about his physicality and his willingness to dig out safeties in the run game and showing strength that isn't so unassuming when he's shrugging off the chicken fighters down the field.

And, like Jefferson, Chase brings that hometown-brewed New Orleans passion for the game.

"Both him and Justin, they have a lot of fun playing, which is contagious," Kragthorpe said. "It makes the other guys have fun doing what they're doing. When you have success like that and you're showing those competitive levels and the excitement around each possession, that's contagious. It flows throughout the entire offense."

At some point during Chase's two-day visit, Kragthorpe is going to grab a bite to eat with him and they'll probably kick around some memories from that freshman year.

"But right now," Kragthorpe said, "today is just making him feel at home and giving him the comfort level for a place that hopefully is his home for the next 12-14 years."

It sounds like it is pretty familiar already.

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