The depth of LSU's front four on defense is an unquestioned strength of this 2021 team. Though the run defense was exploited at UCLA, the Tigers have been able to consistently put pressure on the quarterback in both of its first two games.
Two of those young stars on the interior defensive line who have been most impressive of all are freshman Maason Smith and sophomore Jaquelin Roy. The duo have proven to be two of the most exciting defensive linemen in the SEC through two weeks and will be key cogs in this pass rush moving forward.
Roy is currently tied for third on the team with eight tackles, one tackle for a loss and a forced fumble. But the most impressive part of Roy's game doesn't come from stats but by simply watching his play. He's relentless at getting after the quarterback, already showing signs of an elite interior pass rusher which is no easy task for a defensive tackle.
In fact, through two games Roy's 93.0 PFF [Pro Football Focus] College pass-rush grade is first nationally among interior defenders.
As for Smith, the freshman got off to a slow start against UCLA from a stat stuffing perspective but still made his presence known in both games. The potential is off the charts for the Terrebonne native who was LSU's top signed prospect last December.
He was absolutely dominant against McNeese on Saturday night, recording six tackles, three sacks and 3.5 tackles for a loss in the 34-7 win over the Cowboys. Quarterback Cody Orgeron even told his dad that as soon as he was getting the snaps, all he could see was No. 0 headed for him.
"Proud of them. Recruited both of them. It was a hard battle. Both of them in the state of Louisiana. They decided to fight for Louisiana. Love them," Orgeron said. "They're both great young men. Jaquelin Roy's gotten in good shape. He's learned how to play at this level. He's a dominant force inside. Big, physical guy. Maason had no problem adjusting. He's done a tremendous job. He's a great pass rusher. He needs to work on his run defense a little bit more. Both of them will be outstanding players."
The LSU players have an up close and personal look at how the two have developed throughout the offseason and into the regular season as well. Center Liam Shanahan goes against the two everyday in practice and has been extremely impressed with their impact on the field.
"Those guys, they've got all the talent in the world," Shanahan said. "They come in here, they work hard and have the potential to be such good players, both of them. To see them coming out, you know they're both young guys, to see them shine early in their career is pretty cool to see."
Smith and Roy will only continue to get better as this year goes along and it's possible that by season's end they will be every down kind of players. They certainly have the talent for it and LSU will need to find ways to keep both on the field.