LSU has had a recent history of dipping into the JUCO market and finding starting caliber players, most recently guard Damien Lewis. Coach Ed Orgeron and company are hoping the long and athletic defensive end Ali Gaye can provide a similar impact in 2020.
With LSU going back to the 4-3 defense, adding a natural pass rusher made sense. LSU recruited body types better suited to the 3-4 during the past few recruiting classes. Enter Ali Gaye, a unique defensive end because he’s 6-foot-6, 270-pounds, yet athletic enough to cover a tight end or wide receiver in space.
Gaye played for Garden City (Kan.) Junior College. Prior to that, he played high school football for Edmonds Woodway (Wash.). It’s a long way down to the bayou, but his talents will be welcomed by LSU.
During this first play, it provides insight into just how naturally athletic this young man can be in space. Again, this is a 270-pound defensive end, not a 210-pound strong safety. A few things to watch.
First, he’s comfortable turning and running in space. That’s abnormal for a defensive end. Second, he’s not a player that looks awkward when running in space. He’s more like an extension of the linebacking core. Finally, Gaye changes direction quite well after locating the football.
This next play personifies what it is for a defensive end to ‘crash down’ on the running back. This clip lasts all of three seconds. That’s it. That’s a good thing. Why? Gaye made the play almost immediately. The offensive blocking scheme left Gaye unblocked so that they could double team another player closer to the point of attack.
Gaye exploded off the edge, utilized his fantastic flexibility to turn the corner and explode laterally down the line of scrimmage and crash into the running back. This is a NFL-level play. Period.
A similar play, but with a few important subtle items to watch. The opposing team attempted to use the tight end to block Gaye. The tight end leaned too far over his toes and ducked his head. When a player uses poor blocking technique, a talented defensive end like Gaye should destroy that tight end. That’s exactly what Gaye did.
A hand swipe combined with a swim move and Gaye was quickly past the tight end. More importantly, he did not go too far into the backfield. Next, Gaye read the play, a quarterback lead run into the A-gap. Just like with the play above, Gaye went laterally towards the running quarterback and made the stop near the line of scrimmage.
That’s instinct, technique and athleticism all on display. This is a polished defensive end headed to LSU.
This final clip is part comical and part ridiculous. Gaye ends up covering a wide receiver, literally a wide receiver, during an option route, and stays with him.
First things first. No defensive end should be one-on-one with a wide receiver. Ever. That’s no good. However, Gaye held his own, despite the wide receiver making a 180-degree shift in the direction he ran. Gaye even made the solo tackle. This type of natural athleticism, hustle and instinct should be commended. Just a great play.
Overall, Gaye is the type of rare athlete that can compete right away for playing time. It’s LSU, and there will be plenty of competition. At the very least, Gaye should be a factor with special teams and obvious third down passing situations. Long-term potential, however, should be considered elite.
This is the type of talent that if he takes to the coaching, the change in culture of where he lives and the lights are not too bright, Gaye can be be a true difference-maker. The physical skills are obvious.
Can Gaye become a dominant edge rusher? Absolutely. Will he? That’s why we watch the games.