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LSU Football 2023 Position Preview: Defensive Line

With Maason Smith back how high is the defensive line’s ceiling?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JAN 02 Cheez-It Citrus Bowl Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

LSU’s 2022 defensive line suffered a near crippling blow mere minutes into this past season.

Blossoming super star defensive tackle Maason Smith tore his ACL in the first series of the Florida State game and from that point on, the Tigers were basically playing three defensive tackles all season long: Mekhi Wingo, Jacobian Guillory, and Jaquelin Roy.

All things considered, it’s amazing LSU’s defense wasn’t worse with the lack of depth in the interior. But with Smith back and ready for the 2023 season, plus brining in a handful of experienced transfers, LSU will have a chance to show us all what could have been a year ago.

2023 LSU Defensive Line

Position Player Height/Weight Tackles TFLs Sacks Games/Starts Miscellaneous
Position Player Height/Weight Tackles TFLs Sacks Games/Starts Miscellaneous
DT 0 Maason Smith (Rs. Soph.) 6'6"/310 -- -- -- 1/1 Missed essentially all of the 2022 season after tearing ACL
68 Fitzgerald West (Rs. Fr.) 6'2"/300 N/A N/A N/A 5/0 Played both offense and defense in 2022
81 Bryce Langston (Rs. Soph.) 6'3"/295 1 0 0.5 2/0
90 Jacobian Guillory (Rs. Jr.) 6'2"/320 14 0.5 0 14/2
92 Mekhi Wingo 6'1"/295 47 6 3 14/13 1 FF, 3 PDs
94 Paris Shand (Jr.)* 6'4"/267 23 2.5 2.5 9/7 1 FF, 1 FR
95 Tygee Hill (Rs. Fr.) 6'2"/285 1 0 0 1/0
96 Jalen Lee (Jr.)** 6'3"/315 8 0.5 0 12/3
99 Jordan Jefferson (Sr.)*** 6'3"/305 31 9.5 3 12/12 42 games played/17 starts
DEs/Edges 2 Ovie Oghoufo (5th Year Sr.)**** 6'3"/245 54 8.5 2.5 13/12 1 FF, 4 Hurries, 3 PDs
11 Jaxon Howard (Fr.) 6'4"/240 Four-star freshman
13 Bradyn Swinson (Jr.)***** 6'4"/249 8 1.5 0 12/0 30 games played, 1 start
17 Dashawn Womack (Fr.) 6'5"/266 Five-star freshman
35 Sai'Vion Jones (Jr.) 6'6"/268 23 6 4.5 14/3 1 FF
93 Quency Wiggins (Rs. Fr.) 6'6"/265 5 0 0 5/0
97 Dylan Carpenter (Fr.) 6'4"/244 Three-star freshman

*At Arizona

**At Florida

***At West Virginia

****At Texas

*****At Oregon

The health of big No. 0 will go a long way toward LSU’s success in 2023. Maason Smith is back and hopefully with a vengeance. Smith has been thought of as a future first round pick long before he got to LSU, and still carries those expectations despite the injury. We saw what a true game-wrecking interior player like Jalen Carter can do for a defense, and hopefully Smith can make that same type of impact this fall.

If Smith is indeed back to what we all expected him to be, that opens up things for his fellow linemen like Mekhi Wingo and Jacobian Guillory. Wingo might have been LSU’s best defender not named Harold Perkins as the transfer from Mizzou earned third-team All-American honors last year. Wingo, like Aaron Donald, shows that you don’t have to be an absolute behemoth to make an impact in the middle. That said, LSU does have a behemoth in Guillory at a physically imposing 320 pounds and he’s gotten better in each of his three seasons as a Tiger. Will that trend continue into 2023?

Being so thin at defensive tackle, Brian Kelly and his staff dipped into the transfer portal to bring in three experienced players: Jalen Lee, from Florida, Jordan Jefferson (no not that one) from West Virginia, and Paris Shand from Oregon. Lee’s a Louisiana native and has three years of experience as a nose tackle playing in the SEC.

Jefferson’s best year by far was last season as he wracked up career bests in tackles (31), tackles for loss (9.5), and sacks (3). He’s got 42 games worth of experience including 17 starts and clearly has a good head on his shoulder as he was a two-time academic All-Big 12 selection. He’ll likely be a heavy rotation piece that helps keep the culture strong.

Weight wise Shand is the the smallest defensive tackle on the LSU roster by a considerable amount. He’s 18 pounds lighter than the next closest player, redshirt freshman Tygee Hill. But like Jefferson and Lee, he’s got a lot of experience to his name with 24 games played and 10 starts.

Hill and fellow redshirt freshman Fitzgerald West are likely depth pieces who will be two of the last guys off the bench. West was actually learning center last season, but it appears he’ll be a full-time defensive tackle, which is what he played coming out of Lafayette Christian Academy.

Defensive end is going to be the most new-look position next to corner for LSU. Gone are BJ Ojulari and Ali Gaye, so Sai’Vion Jones is likely going to be the top edge defender for the Tigers in 2023.

Jones was a top-10 edge player coming out of high school and he really took off during his sophomore season. Playing primarily as a rotational piece, Jones wracked up 23 tackles with 6 TFLs and 4.5 sacks. He came to LSU at around 240 pounds and three years later he’s listed at 268. If anyone’s primed to explode in 2023, it’s Jones.

You can never have too much experience and that’s what Kelly and his staff did by brining in Ovie Oghoufo and Bradyn Swinson. Oghoufo is entering his sixth year of college football and has been around the block a time or two. Or, more accurately, 45 times with 20 games started. He’s familiar with Brian Kelly as he played for Kelly at Notre Dame his first three years before transferring to Texas where he spent 2021 and 2022. Now with one final year of eligibility remaining, Oghoufo is reuniting with his former head coach.

Swinson is a player I’m wondering about. In three years at Oregon he had three career sacks. Is he an early contributor early on because of experience or is he here only to provide veteran depth?

I’m expecting a youth movement from the edge rushers in 2023 and it starts with five-star true freshman Dashawn Womack. Womack is one of only two five-stars LSU signed and Kelly said his traits allow him to be a hybrid so he could play either Ali Gaye’s big end position, or BJ Ojulari’s JACK linebacker spot. Fellow true freshman Jaxon Howard comes to LSU via Minnesota and had four tackles plus a sack in the spring game. Both Womack and Howard have been on campus since the spring so expect them to be involved early and often in 2023. Dylan Carpenter is another true freshman but did not enroll in the spring. While not as highly touted a Womack or Howard, Carpenter is the type of guy Kelly will want to build the roster around: a Louisiana kid that grew up wanting to be an LSU Tiger.

Quency Wiggins may not be a true freshman, but he’s still relatively new to football. Wiggins didn’t really start playing football until high school, but that didn’t stop him from being a top-100 recruit in last year’s cycle. At 6’7” and 265, Wiggins is as imposing as it gets and hopefully a year of coaching and acclimation to college football will lead to a big 2023.