LSU's defensive line play has shown why it can be a dominant group come the start of conference play. The Tigers can go at least two deep at every spot along the defensive line and have the athletes to move players around as well.
That creates exciting possibilities, even when a significant part of that group goes down. With Andre Anthony's season ending injury one of the headlines of this week, the focus turned to how LSU would be able to recover from Anthony's injury. The shift LSU has decided on has been to move freshman defensive tackle Maason Smith to left defensive end, a position that coach Ed Orgeron believes is a long term possibility for the freshman star.
"Maason has a chance if you look at a prototypical left defensive end in the NFL, he's a left defensive end," Orgeron said. "That's where most of the runs go to and you want a big defensive end to play over the tight end. He's very athletic to play in space so I think he has a chance to be a dominant football player there. He showed some things, he's a great inside rusher, he's learning how to play outside. I think he's just scratching the surface."
Smith will join sophomore BJ Ojulari and senior Ali Gaye on the edge to create a potentially lethal 1-2-3 punch as pass rushers for the Tigers. The freshman, who stands 6-foot-6, 292 pounds has impressed the coaching staff with his adaptability to be used all across the defensive line. Orgeron also said that Gaye will be back in the lineup this weekend against Mississippi State.
LSU figuring out its rotations up front is necessary for this Mississippi State game in particular because there's a very real chance part of the defensive strategy will be to rush only three players. Dropping seven or eight guys against a heavy passing offense like the Bulldogs will eat up a lot of the field and if the defensive line can still find ways to pressure quarterback Will Rogers, the Tigers will have success Saturday.
"BJ is playing more, he's playing the right end, we're playing more of an attacking style defense, we got him wider," Orgeron said. "Last year we had him right on the tackle which is not condusive to making plays in the backfield. He's rushing every time so that's helping."
But with Smith moving to the outside, what does that do for the depth on the interior defensive line? Joseph Evans, Neil Farrell, Jaquelin Roy and Jacobian Guillory have all come on strong at the start of the season on the interior so LSU is still in very good shape in keeping its rotations fresh.
Orgeron even hinted that senior interior lineman Glen Logan could be nearing a return after a foot injury has kept him out most of the fall. The Tigers have the depth at each position to feel comfortable that rotating these guys in and out won't diminish the product on the field and also keep players fresh until the very last snap.
"I'm really pleased," Orgeron said on Off the Bench. "They played their best (game against CMU). I thought (Joe Evans) played his best game. Neil Farrell is playing at a high level right now. Jaquelin Roy is becoming the dominant player we thought he could be, and Jacobian Guillory has probably grown the most. We have a four-man rotation right there that we feel really good about.”