Ali Gaye is a man of few words. But when it comes to whether he thinks the LSU Tigers will win the College Football Playoff national championship game, he’s as direct as it gets:
Gaye, an Edmonds-Woodway High School alum, will be joining the Tigers on the field next season. But for now he’ll be one of the more interested observers when LSU takes on Clemson for the national title Monday night at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.
Gaye, a 6-foot-6, 280-pound defensive end and a 2017 graduate of Edmonds-Woodway, was one of the most highly regarded junior college football prospects in the country this past season. As a sophomore for Garden City (Kansas) Community College, a school that’s produced NFLers like Corey Dillon and Tyreek Hill, he recorded 44 tackles (7.5 for loss), one sack, one forced fumble and two blocked kicks as the Broncbusters finished 8-3. He was ranked by 247Sports.com as the No. 2 junior college defensive end in the nation.
Gaye, who signed with Washington out of high school but didn’t qualify academically, committed to LSU last June. He officially signed with the Tigers when the early signing period opened on Dec. 18, and he’s traveling to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Thursday to enroll for the spring semester.
So what’s it like heading to a school that’s about to play for a national championship?
“It’s a blessing,” Gaye said.
LSU is in the midst of a banner season. The Tigers are 14-0 and finished the season as the top-ranked team in the Associated Press poll. LSU routed No. 4 Oklahoma 63-28 in the national semifinals on Dec. 28, a game Gaye watched at his Seattle home along with his family.
“Oklahoma had no chance,” Gaye said.
Gaye said he’s been in constant contact with LSU’s coaches throughout the season, specifically with defensive line coach Bill Johnson and safeties coach Bill Busch. He’s also kept a close eye on the Tigers and their progress toward the national championship game.
“I’ve been able to watch most of the games,” Gaye said. “They were winning, just having guys make plays.”
Gaye said he’s paid particular attention to the play of the line in LSU’s 3-4 defense, a unit he’ll soon be joining — and a unit that will need reinforcing as two members of the defensive end rotation, starter Rashard Lawrence and reserve Breiden Fehoko, are seniors.
“They’ve been making plays, stopping runs and getting to the passer,” Gaye said.
“I just watch their technique and see what I can get from it.”
Gaye said he didn’t know whether he’d get a chance to meet up with anyone from the team before it leaves for New Orleans — the Tigers, who are 5.5-point favorites against defending national champion Clemson, are scheduled to depart Friday — or exactly where he’ll watch the national championship game.
But can he see himself one day playing for a national title?