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The Impact of Maason Smith’s Suspension Against Florida State

Maason Smith's suspension

The Heinous Act of Wickedness

Due to a most untimely suspension, LSU will go into a top-10 matchup against Florida State without All-SEC defensive tackle Maason Smith. Smith and then-Tigers receiver Kayshon Boutte, reportedly took part in an autograph session for money weeks before legal NIL opportunities went into effect in 2021. Boutte was suspended for a game in 2022. 

The NCAA allowed Brian Kelly to choose the game in which the players would be suspended in 2022.  Ultimately, Smith’s season-ending injury in the first game prevented him from serving the suspension. One could question why the NCAA would remove LSU’s option of choosing the game Smith sits out in 2023. The severity of the offense is also controversial in today’s climate.

Instead of trying to make sense of NCAA decisions, we’d all be better served evaluating the impact of his absence.

Smith’s Replacements

Fortunately for defensive coordinator Matt House, the cupboard is not bare in the trenches. Yes, Smith is a projected first-round pick. But don’t forget that defensive tackle Mekhi Wingo is a returning All-American. Wingo somehow played over 700 snaps in 2022. Fortunately for him, the Tigers have added depth to a thin position group since then.

Jacobian Guillory will return for his junior season. Coming in at a slim 6-2, 320 pounds, the Alexandria, LA native is known as “Tank”. Guillory has entrenched himself into the rotation as a run-stopper. He is most likely to be the next man up at the position.

West Virginia transfer Jordan Jefferson has regularly run with the second-string defense in Fall camp, but Kelly spoke glowingly of Arizona transfer Paris Shand. According to Kelly, “Paris Shand stands out to me as somebody that…you could see his progress and his grit kind of grow during the Spring to the point where that was a really good Spring for him.” Shand was expected to compete for time at defensive end, so it’s apparent that Kelly sees him as a versatile player.

On that note, former five-star recruit Quency Wiggins returns for his redshirt freshman season. Wiggins’ natural position is defensive end, but Kelly has spoken openly about his ability to play inside. The Tigers also added Jalen Lee, who transferred from Florida and added depth to the defensive tackle position. Lee is a former four-star recruit who originally committed to LSU in high school before changing his commitment to Florida.

Matching Up Against Florida State

Florida State head coach Mike Norvell’s offensive lines were infamously bad early in his tenure, to no fault of his own. The Seminoles do not have elite NFL prospects on their offensive line. But they’re a far cry from the laughingstock that they were in 2019.

While there’s no way for LSU to replace Smith’s disruptive ability on the interior, they’re much better equipped to rotate fresh bodies than they were in 2022. LSU’s defensive line was able to get into the backfield more than the stats would indicate in last year’s match. However, Jordan Travis avoided sacks with his athleticism while routinely converting third downs.

House has now had a year to get to know his personnel as well as add depth. Don’t be surprised to see more containment and less attacking when it comes to stopping Jordan Travis. It’s important to note that Harold Perkins didn’t play in last year’s contest, which says a lot about the unconscionable lack of familiarity among the LSU defense at that stage.

As disheartening as Smith’s absence is, the interior defensive linemen of the Tiger defense performed admirably with less depth in 2022. This defensive line was expected to be one of the strengths of the 2023 LSU team. If that’s the case, this unit should be able to provide a respectable performance despite the loss of one player. A dominant performance without their best player could be a springboard to cementing LSU’s place among the 2023 elites.


Maason Smith's suspension

Photo courtesy: Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports


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