Ahead of the LSU Tigers season opener against the Florida State Seminoles on September 3, the team learned that they'll be without star defensive tackle Maason Smith after the NCAA suspended him for receiving an improper benefit.
Sources: #LSU star defensive tackle Maason Smith will not play against Florida State. The NCAA suspended him for the first game after determining he received an improper benefit. He can return Week 2. https://t.co/Pvh8FPlkIC
— Wilson Alexander (@whalexander_) August 23, 2023
According to Wilson Alexander of NOLA.com, the suspension stems from an autograph signing with former teammate Kayshon Boutte before NIL started in July 2021. Smith cooperated with the NCAA during the investigation but still received a one-game suspension.
Though it's just one game, it's a battle between two ranked teams inside the top eight as LSU is No. 5 and Florida State No. 8.
To add, Smith was working his way back from a devastating ACL tear last season, which he suffered, ironically, against Florida State.
Alexander also reported that the suspension would've been served last season if Smith wasn't hurt.
In Smith's place will be junior Mekhi Wingo, redshirt junior Jacobian Guillory, and senior Jordan Jefferson, who transferred in from West Virginia.
Smith also missed spring practice, so when he returned, he was, as defensive coordinator Matt House put it, "knocking off some rust."
"What you do see is that size and that athleticism," House said August 12. "He's just like anybody else. He's got improvement to be made. I think he would tell you right now if you looked at it, he wants to improve his pad level. At times right now, he's playing high."
When Smith returns, the Tigers plan to leverage their defensive front to get after the quarterback via inside pressure, which will be problematic for opposing teams, which head coach Brian Kelly plans for.
"When you start to move the center to him or use a (running) back inside, now you're going to leave our edge players one-on-one and we'll have a really good, balanced pass rush," Kelly said this spring. "He brings that presence, which we didn't have last year."
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