With Ja'Marr Chase's decision to forego the rest of his college eligibility so he can focus on preparing for the 2021 NFL Draft, instantly the question became what will become of the No. 7 jersey?
The No. 7 is given to historically the best player on the team, really taking off in the last decade when Patrick Peterson started the tradition. It was eventually handed down to players like Tyrann Mathieu, Leonard Fournette, DJ Chark and Grant Delpit. Chase was set to be the latest honoree after his 1,780-yard, 20 touchdown 2019 season that concluded with a Biletnikoff award.
"This was a tough decision for me,” Chase said back in March. “I've been thinking about this for a couple of weeks. I look at No. 7 as a competitive number. I think the No. 7 at LSU is a challenge. There's a lot of things that go on in the year when you have 7 on, a lot of critics, a lot of people, a lot of expectations from 7, and I want to have that challenge upon me."
So what will happen with No. 7? Many immediately jumped on the Derek Stingley Jr. train as the most likely candidate to earn the jersey. The sophomore cornerback sent out a tweet Sunday afternoon that cleared up those predictions real quick.
Senior safety JaCoby Stevens' name was thrown around to but he seems destined for No. 18, particularly with the leadership he's shown over the last few days in organizing the player-led march to the president's office on Friday. At this point the most likely scenario would be to move forward with the 2020 season without a No. 7.
It's been done before. From 2012-14, there was no No. 7 until Leonard Fournette walked on to campus as a freshman.
There's no need to force feed the jersey on a player who doesn't truly deserve the honor. Coach Ed Orgeron learned that the hard way in 2018. After a disappointing start to the season, receiver Jonathan Giles had the No. 7 revoked and he ultimately transferred from the program.
Could a surprise player like Stevens, Terrace Marshall or Tyler Shelvin be awarded No. 7? It’s possible but feels a little forced. After all Chase was such an obvious choice for the honor.
If there’s no one the coaching staff feels is really deserving of the honor, the best course of action is to wait until next season.