LSU defensive end Ali Gaye is returning for the 2022 season, he announced on Tuesday. The former JUCO standout for Garden City C.C. suffered a season ending injury that required surgery as his NFL Draft stock was soaring.
In 2021 before his injury, the 6-6, 250-pounder added 19 tackles, 13 of the solo variety, 2.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks and a pass breakup in just four games. He heads into 2022 with 51 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, eight pass breakups, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and an interception across 14 games.
In 2020, the Gambia native was named Second Team All-SEC as he started all 10 games in his first season with the Tigers. He notched 32 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss and two sacks while tying for the team lead with six pass breakups and leading the Tigers with five quarterback hurries. He also added an interception, fumble recovery and forced fumble.
Ascending to become one of the best JUCO prospects in the 2020 class, he had 44 tackles, one sack, one forced fumble, a pass breakup, and two blocked kicks during his 2019 campaign at Garden City. Gaye came out of Washington’s Edmonds-Woodway High school before heading to Arizona Western C.C., where he had eight tackles in 11 games.
Ali Gaye a welcomed boost along with LSU transfer haul
While LSU got good news from players like Gaye to return, the staff has added 11 transfers into the fold to shore up the roster, and more are on the way. So far, Florida International offensive lineman Miles Frazier, East Carolina long snapper Slade Roy, Arkansas safety Joe Foucha, Arkansas defensive back Greg Brooks, Louisiana defensive back Mekhi Garner, Notre Dame punter Jay Bramblett, Virginia linebacker West Weeks, Penn State running back Noah Cain, Louisiana wide receiver Kyren Lacy, East Tennessee State offensive lineman Tre’Mond Shorts and Missouri defensive lineman Mekhi Wingo have all pledged to transfer to LSU.
For new head coach Brian Kelly, retaining much of the roster was a key starting point for him and he hoped his reputation as a coach who has a strong bond with his players helped.
“I’ve been called a players’ coach, a CEO, demanding, whatever narrative you want to come up with,” Kelly said at his introductory press conference. “I think I’ve hit all of those. Look, I think the most important thing is you’d better have relationships with your players and you’d better know your players. You’d better know their strengths and weaknesses. You’d better be able to have the ability to reach your players and communicate with them and be demanding but never demeaning.
“I think you need to be all those things. But it starts with relationships with your players. However that’s characterized, however you want to put that sound bite out there, that’s me. But it’s going to start with I’m going to love my players. That’s the centerpiece of who I’ve been for 31 years as a head coach.”