LSU defensive tackle Maason Smith’s long-awaited return from a major knee injury last season will be delayed by one game because of a suspension that will sideline him for the No. 5 Tigers’ opener against No. 8 Florida State on Sept. 3, a person familiar with the matter said Thursday.
The NCAA suspended Smith in connection with his participation in an autograph signing shortly before a rule change in July 2021 allowed college players to profit from their name, image and likeness (NIL), the person told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because Smith’s discipline, first reported by The (Baton Rouge) Advocate, has not yet been made public by the NCAA or LSU.
Smith cooperated with the NCAA’s investigation, the person said.
Smith was injured in LSU’s 2022 season opener against Florida State in New Orleans. The former five-star recruit tore his left anterior cruciate ligament when he landed awkwardly after leaping in celebration of a teammate’s tackle.
The fluky injury robbed LSU of one of its top defensive players for virtually all last season. As a true freshman in 2021, Smith had four sacks and five tackles for losses in nine games.
Smith enters this season with preseason All-Southeastern Conference honors. He wil be eligible to return for LSU’s home opener against Grambling on Sept. 9.
LSU’s rotation on the interior defensive line this season also includes junior Mekhi Wingo, redshirt junior Jacobian Guillory and senior West Virginia transfer Jordan Jefferson.
Jefferson started for the Mountaineers last season, when he had three sacks among 9½ tackles for losses. Wingo had three sacks for the Tigers last season among six tackles for losses.
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