Randy Moss' son, Thaddeus, makes a name for himself in LSU's prolific offense

LSU vs. Clemson promises to be a championship for the ages (0:52)

Joe Burrow vs. Trevor Lawrence. Ed Orgeron vs. Dabo Swinney. The top-ranked team vs. the defending champ. It's LSU vs. Clemson for the championship. (0:52)

LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda knows all too well what it's like to try to slow down the Tigers' high-scoring offense.

During spring practice and preseason camp, LSU's defense was typically no match for Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Joe Burrow and receivers Ja'Marr Chase, Justin Jefferson and Terrace Marshall Jr.

"Spring ball and fall camp, that's what it was," Aranda said. "Every day, just a perfect call was being called against us, and the times that we would have a great call, Ja'Marr Chase was catching it over someone's head and guys were getting Mossed. It was a struggle."

Trying to cover LSU's three top receivers is difficult enough for most defenses. They've combined for 220 receptions for 3,618 yards with 48 touchdowns in 14 games. Tailback Clyde Edwards-Helaire caught 50 passes for 399 yards with one score.

LSU tight end Thaddeus Moss, the son of Pro Football Hall of Famer Randy Moss, presents an entirely different matchup problem. A 6-foot-3, 249-pound junior from Charlotte, North Carolina, Moss set an LSU single-season record for tight ends with 42 receptions for 534 yards.

"We have five NFL guys in route every single snap," said Burrow, who threw for 5,208 yards with 55 touchdowns this season. "So you have to pick your poison. I just try to get the ball in their hands on time and accurately and then let them do the rest."

That's the challenge No. 3 Clemson's defense will face when it plays No. 1 LSU in Monday's College Football Playoff National Championship Presented by AT&T (8 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN App) at Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.

"It's making them defend every single person," Burrow said. "Anybody can get the ball on any play. We're not designing plays to go to this one guy. We have progression reads that everyone can get the ball on until I decide. So you have to be on your toes as a defense and really understand who has each individual player. Otherwise, we'll beat you, or I'll find a guy. And that's what makes it so difficult to defend."

Moss is the LSU player with the most recognizable name. His father, who now works as an NFL analyst for ESPN, is regarded among the best receivers in college football history -- and he played only two seasons.

Randy Moss signed with Notre Dame out of high school, but the university wouldn't admit him after he was involved in a fight in high school that led to a misdemeanor assault conviction. He enrolled at Florida State, but was kicked off the team before ever playing in a game because of a positive marijuana test.

Moss transferred to FCS program Marshall in his native West Virginia. He led the Thundering Herd to a national championship and set four NCAA freshman records in his first season in 1996. Marshall moved to FBS the next year, and Moss won the Biletnikoff Award as the sport's best receiver and was a Heisman Trophy finalist.

Moss skipped his final two college seasons and entered the 1998 NFL draft. The Minnesota Vikings selected him with the 21st pick of the first round. He was a six-time Pro Bowler and caught 982 passes with 156 touchdowns during a 14-year NFL career.

Moss was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2018, his first year of eligibility. Thaddeus Moss introduced his father during Hall of Fame ceremonies in Canton, Ohio.

"He told me the last name means something," Thaddeus said. "We're normal people, but others don't look at us as normal people. With the last name, people expect more of us and look at us a certain way.

"I'm 21 years old, but it's still a burden. Obviously, having that last name carries its perks, but I always say it's a blessing and curse at the same time. It has its ups and has its down with just the way some people treat you. They expect certain things from you."

Moss said he's a target for opposing defensive backs because of his lineage. They're quick to tell him that he'll never be as good as his father -- like almost everyone else.

"Everything you can think of, I hear it out there," Thaddeus said. "It doesn't bother me. My dad was a first-ballot Hall of Famer and one of the best receivers that ever played the game. If I can be something like him, that's good enough."

Like his father's experience, Thaddeus' career didn't start the way he expected. After his all-state career at Mallard Creek High School in Charlotte, ESPN Recruiting ranked him as the No. 5 tight end in the country in 2016. He signed with NC State over scholarship offers from Alabama, Florida, Florida State, Georgia and other programs. He caught six passes for 49 yards with one touchdown as a freshman in 2016.

After his first season at NC State, Moss transferred and followed Wolfpack offensive coordinator Matt Canada to LSU. He had to sit out the 2017 season under NCAA transfer rules.

Then, two months before the start of the 2018 season, Moss felt a pop in his left foot while running pass routes during voluntary workouts. He fractured the fifth metatarsal in his foot and had surgery. His foot didn't heal properly, which led to a second surgery. He missed all of the 2018 season as well.

"It was probably the most difficult time of my life," Moss said. "I didn't know when I was going to get back on the field."

After missing two seasons, Moss wasn't supposed to be LSU's starting tight end in 2019. Senior Stephen Sullivan was the favorite going into preseason camp, but Moss' speed, hands and improved blocking won him the job. He had a 44-yard reception in a 55-3 decision over Georgia Southern in the opener, then five catches with one touchdown in a 42-6 rout of Utah State and seven more receptions in a 23-20 win over Auburn.

"It feels good as a receiver knowing that Joe is back there, and Joe is looking to throw the ball," Moss said. "All we have to do is get open and he's going to find you."

Moss was at his best in LSU's biggest games this season. He had six catches for 46 yards in a 46-41 win at then-No. 3 Alabama on Nov. 9. On one reception, he was forced out of bounds by Tide defender Trevon Diggs, but re-established himself in bounds and barely got his feet down to make a diving 16-yard catch to set up a touchdown.

When ESPN showed Thaddeus' catch during the popular "You Got Mossed!" segment on Sunday NFL Countdown the next morning, Randy Moss said: "Alabama got Mossed, and everybody in that stadium got Mossed. Way to go, son."

Randy Moss was able to attend LSU's games against Florida, Alabama, Georgia in the SEC championship game, and Oklahoma in a CFP semifinal at the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. Thaddeus caught a 62-yard touchdown and had a career-high 99 receiving yards in the Tigers' 63-28 rout of the Sooners.

When Thaddeus ran into the end zone, he looked up in the corner and saw his brother cheering. Then he saw his father going nuts.

"It was great to have them there," he said. "It was great to see my dad acting like a fool."