When Ali Gaye first got to Baton Rouge, he had no idea that two weeks into the 2020 season, he'd arguably be LSU's best defensive lineman. He didn't even think he'd be a starter.
Gaye knew the kind of hurdles he'd have to climb just to be a contributor for the defending national champs, particularly coming from a JUCO program at Garden City Community College. His mindset when arriving to campus last spring was to work.
When the coronavirus pandemic shut down the sports world and all of his teammates were sent home, Gaye elected to stay in Baton Rouge.
"I know it wasn't going to be given to me so I know I had to work to earn my position," Gaye said. "There were a lot of guys ahead of me and I had to look up to those guys and see how things work in order for me to earn the position I'm in right now. I can only get better. I'm not really focused on personal stats, I'm just having fun."
A big part of Gaye's journey has been about fulfilling the obvious talent and potential that his 6-foot-6, 262-pound frame supports. Being in an environment and having a coaching staff like the one at LSU has helped Gaye realize that he isn’t close to reaching his full potential as a pass rusher.
But Gaye is just one piece of a defensive line that has looked truly dominant at times two games into the season. The Tigers are tied for second in the SEC with eight sacks and also rank No. 2 in passes defended, a number of which have come at the line of scrimmage. Gaye alone has three pass breakups on the young season while Andre Anthony has one as well.
The depth of this defensive line is what stands out to Anthony the most as the Tigers have seen some standout moments from BJ Ojulari, Joseph Evans, Siaki Ika, Jaquelin Roy and Neil Farrell.
"I'm excited, we've been doing great," Anthony said. "It don't matter if you're a one or a two, if a different person is on the field, it's like the same. There's no difference, everybody's playing like a first teamer and it's just exciting to see the progress we've made. The amount of time we've put in the offseason, staying together, coaching each other up. The production we're making as a unit is very exciting to see."
The 4-3 defense is one that fits Anthony and Gaye's play style perfectly as both love to put their hands in the dirt and get after the quarterback on the outside. The change in defensive scheme has breathed new life into Anthony in particular, who's fresh off a six tackle, one sack performance against Vanderbilt.
"Once I found out we were moving to a 4-3, I was excited," Anthony said. "I feel like I'm back to myself and just getting my hands back in the dirt and doing what I do best. The transition was normal and came right back to me."
Anthony is finally getting his opportunity to start while Gaye is the newcomer to the unit who is quickly becoming a star in the making. The unit will also be getting veteran senior defensive tackle Glen Logan back to the lineup, providing yet another quality body to a group that seems to just be scratching the surface of its potential.