Hometown: Edmonds, WA
High School: Edmonds-Woodway
A breakout player in his first year at LSU, Ali Gaye boasts NFL size and length; that said, his raw play and underwhelming athletic profile may be deleterious to his NFL projection.
Prototypical size is not an easily found trait among college athletes. Ali Gaye, though, looks the part of an NFL pass rusher. Listed at 6060 and 262 pounds, the LSU defensive end boasts impressive length. On the field, Gaye exhibits solid change of direction while unengaged. When approaching blockers, the Western Arizona College product leads with his hands and uses his length to manage distance. Upon stacking offensive linemen, the Gambia native occasionally windows to functionally two-gap. Gaye has a knack for getting his hands into throwing lanes and defending passes at the line of scrimmage. What’s more, the former Garden City Community College standout takes advantage of offensive tackles’ poor weight distribution with swipes, swims and side-scissors. He uses jab steps, head fakes and body language to set up his rushes. Gaye’s best move is to pull through after establishing distance against his opponents. Additionally, the Tigers’ pass rusher has displaced linemen with speed-to-power. A counter-heavy rusher, Gaye fights hands to remove contact from his frame and win late. He also likes a spin counter. In run defense, the long defender anchors down with leverage to set the edge while patiently reading the mesh point. After diagnosing, Gaye plays with a high motor to chase ball carriers down. Finally, the LSU starter has experience playing along the interior. Despite his intriguing frame, LSU’s first-year starter and JUCO transfer lacks NFL-caliber refinement and athletic traits. Gaye exhibits limited linear and lateral burst. As a speed rusher, the Garden City Community College product ostensibly lacks bend. Moreover, Gaye displays underwhelming functional strength, even struggling against tight ends and running backs. He is often controlled by offensive linemen and struggles to work through half-man engagement or trail arms. Additionally, he plays with uninspired leg drive and is unable to generate power after his initial punch. Gaye’s poor grip strength allows offensive tackles to knock his hands away. What’s more, the Gambia native’s consistently high pad level leaves his frame open to contact on nearly every play. Gaye is also limited by an apparent lack of balance. He is regularly on the ground and exacerbates the issue by playing ahead of his base. As Gaye approaches engagement, it is clear he lacks a comprehensive pass-rush plan. The counter-heavy rusher’s wins are typically too late into the play to make an impact. The LSU standout employs slow hands which negates his length and allows linemen to initiate. Furthermore, his unrefined and inaccurate hands minimize his play strength. In run defense, Gaye is routinely washed out and practices inconsistent gap discipline. His movement skills are not enough to reliably navigate the box or set the edge. His grip strength also limits him at the tackle point. A breakout player in his first year at LSU, Ali Gaye looks the part of an NFL defensive end. His length and size are inherently intriguing. That said, his raw play and underwhelming athletic profile may be deleterious to his NFL projection. He is a practice squad player whose length and flashes in run defense may earn him a roster spot in the future.
The road to the NFL is not always a clear one. Born November 29th, 1998 in The Gambia, Ali Gaye moved to the United States at the age of 12. A 5’5” soccer player when he moved to Lynnwood, Washington, the young athlete played basketball and wrestled in middle school. In the eighth grade, Gaye decided to play football as an “experiment.” He continued playing football at Edmonds-Woodway High School. By the end of his freshman season, Gaye had grown 50 pounds and five inches. He claims he began taking football seriously as a sophomore. Despite his late start, the Edmonds-Woodway star had a stellar football career. After being named All-Wesco 3A/2A South three times, Gaye was a bona fide college recruit. 247Sports Composite Rankings listed the Gambia native as a three-star recruit. The same service named him the 627th-ranked player nationally, the 26th-best strong-side defensive end in his class and the 9th-overall recruit from the state of Washington in his year. That said, Gaye’s path to the league would only become more convoluted. The talented defensive end committed to the University of Washington but did not score well enough on his SAT to attend the school. Gaye has publicly stated that his grades in high school were below what he is capable of due to his transition and adaptation to the US learning system. Rather than give up on football, the promising defender attended Arizona Western College in 2018. That season with the Matadors, he played in 11 games and recorded eight tackles. Unfortunately, Arizona Western discontinued its football program after that year. The team’s head coach accepted a position at Garden City Community College (GCCC) and invited Gaye to make the transition with him. After transferring to GCCC, the late bloomer made an immediate impact. He posted 44 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, one sack, one forced fumble, one pass breakup and two blocked kicks. He was also named to the 2019 All-Jayhawk League First Team. What’s more, the gifted pass rusher claimed that he did better than ever academically at GCCC. In recognition of his stellar season with the Broncbusters, 247Sports Composite JUCO named Gaye the 19th-overall JUCO prospect in the nation, the 2nd-best JUCO strong-side defensive end in his class and the 7th-ranked JUCO player from Washington. After committing to LSU, Gaye was forced to undergo an uncertain offseason due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, he thrived. In his first season with the Tigers, the breakout star played in 10 games and recorded 32 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, one forced fumble, seven pass breakups and one interception. A testament to his improvements in the classroom since high school, Gaye was named one of the July 2021 Cox Communications Academic Center for Student-Athletes Student-Athlete of the Month. The subject of an impressive story, the standout defensive end has only received high praise from his high school and JUCO coaches. He comes across as humble, kind and grateful in interviews.