No matter how much football changes where offenses rule and scoring points is a premium one thing will never fade away: if your defensive front four can get pressure, especially in the interior, you can derail even the greatest of offenses.
Look no further than Super Bowl 55 when a Tampa Bay Buccaneer defense unleashed hell on a vulnerable Kansas City Chief offensive line and made life miserable for Patrick Mahomes. Getting pressure on a quarterback and disrupting his pocket will always be a winning formula and it’s something that Ed Orgeron hopefully has in Maason Smith.
Maason Smith and Ed Orgeron are both from the bayous of Louisiana. Maason Smith plays defensive tackle, an area where Orgeron made a name for himself as one of the best position coaches in the business. And oh by the way, Smith was the best prospect in Louisiana last year and one of the best in all of the country. If Orgeron and his staff, coming off the worst defensive season in school history, couldn’t have signed this good of a kid at that position from that part of the state? Woof.
You never assume anything in the wild world of recruiting, but again considering where Smith is from and what position he plays, there was next to no doubt at all he wouldn’t stay home and play for the Tigers.
But that didn’t stop other schools from trying. Alabama tried. Miami tried. USC tried and leaned heavily on the friendship he and Korey Foreman share. We hear all the times about package deals in recruiting and more often than not it doesn’t pan out. And while Smith and Foreman didn’t choose to go to the same school, the fact that USC legitimately had a shot at Smith and vice versa shows that maybe things could have been different had COVID not thrown a wrench in the recruiting process.
Ultimately Smith chose the good guys, signed during the December early signing period in December and enrolled on campus early.
247 Composite Rating: *****
247 Composite Ranking: .9899
Linemen are the hardest players to project when looking at what little footage there is. Guys like Smith are just so much bigger than the players blocking them—err, trying to block them is a better way of putting—that I can’t get a feel for what’s translatable ability at the college level and what’s “hey random kid I’m bigger and stronger than you get out of my way.”
But what my untrained eye tells me is Maason Smith is a kid with a great first step and shows a punch that will be devastating once really harnessed by Orgeron and defensive line coach Andre Carter. He appears to have a serious want to and shows a good motor like at the example at the 0:17 mark. It looks like he has good instincts on how to use his hands as he leaps up to block a field goal at the 1:08 mark and bats down a pair of passes (1:22 and 1:30) at the line
Now all that said, there is going to be a learning curve for Smith. He famously got knocked tossed aside by Glenn Logan during a spring ball blocking drill.
That’s to be expected going up against a 23-year-old man. But once Smith gets some more coaching and continues to partake in Tommy Moffitt’s strength and conditioning program he’ll be the one doing the tossing.
Smith won’t merely be on the field for LSU’s opening game against UCLA, he could very well be on the opening defensive series. Smith enrolled early so his development has only been expedited these past seven months and when you hear the way his coaches and teammates talk about him, you’re looking at a potential Freshman All-American season.
High End: An All-American and possible Outland/Nagurski winner that goes in the first round of the 2024 NFL Draft.
Low End: A multi-year starter who “only” makes an All-SEC team. A career similar to Drake Nevis but with more starts.
Realistic: Maybe winning the Outland or Nagurski trophy is a tad bit extreme, but I think Smith ends up being the best defensive tackle LSU has had since Glenn Dorsey. He’ll be a contributor from day one and works his way into the starting lineup as an 18-year-old before eventually anchoring a newly ferocious Tiger front four for the next two years.