by Lonn Phillips Sullivan
ALI GAYE Junior (DE)
52 TOTAL TACKLES
2 BLOCKED FIELD GOALS
The 6'6, 262 pound monolithic inferno some call Ali Gaye (and we call "the most physically gifted lineman in Baton Rouge") has a fantastic story...one of overcoming hardship, language barriers and a gulf in education, arriving on American soil at the age of 12 from his native Gambia.
As an adolescent becoming acclimated to life in another country, Ali's test scores were lower than expected as he learned the world's most difficult language; Still, Gaye persevered, graduating from Edmonds-Woodway High and impressing anyone in his vicinity:
“You got a kid that’s 6-6 while weighing 265, 270 who moves like a basketball player,” said Gaye's mentor and Edmonds-Woodway football coach John Gradwohl. “Not a lot of those guys move that well. He’s competitive, he loves to learn, he’s coachable, he’s got all those qualities. He's just a warm-hearted great young man."
After Gaye's graduation, the former soccer player made his full commitment to Chris Peterson's Washington Huskies on signing day 2017.
Sadly, he soon failed to meet the Pac 12 school's academic standards and was forced to depart Washington and walk the JUCO path:
Playing as an interior for community colleges at Arizona Western and Garden City, Kansas the last two seasons, Gaye followed Head Coach Tom Minnick to both schools in consecutive seasons (Arizona Western's program shut down, forcing his move to Garden City). During this JUCO era, Ali racked up 52 total tackles (44 throughout 2019), blocked 2 field goals, forced a fumble (recovered another) and deflected 3 passes using his tyrannical, agile 6'6 length....but most of all he worked on mastering his academics...the football would come in time and reps.
Following his academic progress, Ali set his sights on LSU long ago, with Coaches Aranda and Bill Busch making the initial contact. The towering defensive lineman committed back in July 2019, but due to the tragic transfer rules, Gaye missed out on a National Championship season.
“I’ve always been interested in playing in the SEC, especially at a school like LSU,” Gaye said to Heraldnet.com, “It’s a place I can see myself being successful on the field, in the classroom and just as a person.”
During the summer, as Gaye geared up for his first LSU practices, he began his life as a Tiger just as he had as an American, being viewed as a contributor firmly on the outskirts of the defense....and there's many factors for his lack of high profile discussion.
First, Gaye needed to grow accustomed to the speed, athleticism and brute force of SEC football after two years adrift on the JuCo path....and he did quickly: his attributes are tailor-made for the Southeastern Conference. On May 27th, Coach Ed Orgeron finally name dropped the Gambian-American, Coach O quoted as saying he "loves what he's seen from Ali"....
Now with only 5 days until opening game against Mississippi State, the JUCO Junior is being given the nod along this much-changed Tigers' D-line.
Ali Gaye may just be another huge breakout star for LSU in a season who's glory rests or fades in the hands of currently unknown Division I players such as Gaye, Brennan, Ojulari, Flott, Cox or Clark...ever the eye for talent, Orgeron definitely likes him and mentioned Gaye yet again today:
"I like his range. He's 6-6. He's smart, works hard every day. Very humble young man, physical at the point of attack, he wants to learn. He's a very good pass rusher, has a lot of batted balls, (Ali) batted a pass in a scrimmage for an interception last Friday." (Jabril Cox caught the deflected Myles pass)
Coach O continued:
"I think right now him and Travez Moore are gonna anchor down that left end. They'll probably have equal reps, backed up by Jarrell Cherry....but I think right now that Ali is starting....he's earned the starting position. He knows his assignments, he plays hard and I think he's gonna have a great season for us."
I feel...right here and now, Orgeron must stick to this plan: Anthony or Ojulari on one side, Gaye on the other and we must stick to this plan throughout gameweek.
A month and a half ago, we dubbed Ali an "ambassador of quarterback shame" on the Mark Rogers show and we stick by that quote....it also appears Coach O & DL Coach Bill Johnson also agree with our assessment.
Gaye's length and intensity must be utilized off the edge in tandem with B.J Ojulari, who Orgeron already called "our best pass rusher" at every turn all off-season.
Anthony and Moore are a fantastic second group, and though we feel Andre has a legitimate chance to breakout, we haven't seen the steak to geaux with those potatoes just yet...we may not know exactly who'll be our true DL Alphas until after the Florida game....but you have to feel Orgeron is getting closer.
We've watched B.J Ojulari, Phillip Webb and Ali Gaye really take on and beat our best O-linemen (Deculus, Ingram and Rosenthal) delivering more consistency, physicality and energy than Anthony or Moore, despite the latter players' vast improvements. Anthony has the pace, the moves and the engine, but he doesn't possess the size to break on through to the othhha side, while Travez Moore's qualities are unknown until we see what he can do on the field.
Truly, the only way forward for LSU's defense?
Pelini, Johnson and Orgeron must utilize their bountiful young athleticism on the edge to make up for whatever D-line deficiencies exist overall, and it seems they've already received the memo by promoting a stud like Ali Gaye.
Ali Gaye's promotion as our new starting defensive end indicates the Tigers' reliance on younger, speedier play-makers....edge destroyers and backfield consumers (such as Gaye) who can provide looming bulk, vicious pace as well as extreme punishment off the edge...and it doesn't get better than the Gambian international's exquisite athletic range.
Ali is poised to become an imperious fan favorite, a constant Orgeron Enforcer off the edge and an obvious mismatch every time he scoops inside on a stunt....watch for Ali to make more of a dent rushing the passer through the interior rather than the edge.
6.5 TFL, 38 Total Tackles, 3.5 Sacks, 4 PD, 1 FR, 1 INT
We predict & discuss Ali Gaye's 2020 season here during our appearance on Mark RogersTV:
by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
Copyright 2020 Uninterrupted Writings Inc LLC
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