LSU observations: Maason Smith looks disruptive and more from preseason practice

Aug 7, 2023
LSU held its fourth preseason practice Monday, with a fight that caught plenty of attention but much more that could matter for the season ahead.
With temperatures creeping toward 100 degrees, LSU spent half of practice indoors before moving outside. The Tigers wore helmets and shoulder pads as they continued the mandatory acclimatization period.
Here’s what we saw:
Two defenders impress
Maason Smith is practicing well in his return from a torn ACL last year. He has shown no physical limitations to this point, and he was active again Monday. In combo block drills, Smith ripped past center Charles Turner on one rep and got into the backfield on another. He and Turner got chippy and had to be separated.
Later, Smith blew up the first two plays of the 11-on-11 session. He was immediately in the backfield both times, forcing quarterback Jayden Daniels to move in the pocket. Smith looks on track to pick up where he left off before the injury as a potentially disruptive inside force.
On the last play of 11-on-11, transfer safety André Sam picked off Garrett Nussmeier on an intermediate crossing route. Sam jumped the ball near the sideline for his second highlight play after making a pass breakup on the first day. Sam, who played at Marshall last season, looks like someone who can contribute at this level.
Wide receivers impress, tempers flare at another LSU football practice
Fight breaks out
A fight happened between some of LSU’s offensive and defensive players, and coach Brian Kelly was not pleased.
There had been chippy moments earlier in the day, like between Smith and Turner, before a scuffle broke out during the 11-on-11 period.
Multiple players got involved after a play ended, with at least one throwing a punch, as others tried to break up the skirmish.
After everyone was separated, junior wide receiver Malik Nabers and senior wide receiver Kyren Lacy were sent to the locker room.
"It's hot out there, humid, people not in their right mind," junior defensive end Sai’vion Jones said. "We need to use that as a pushing tool to help us get to where we need to."
Kelly was not happy, and he later told an assistant coach the staff needed to break up the fight sooner. He pulled Harold Perkins to the side and spoke to the sophomore linebacker. Perkins did not play another snap during practice.
Once the 11-on-11 period ended, Kelly gathered the team around him. Jones and sophomore tight end Mason Taylor said the message was about the need for leadership.
"He told us how things like that are going to happen when you're that passionate about playing football," Taylor said. "We need to remember that we've always got to respect the brotherhood."
Fights are not uncommon during football practices, but they are rarely seen by media at the college level. In 2019, quarterback Joe Burrow and linebacker Patrick Queen got into one, and the Tigers eventually won the national championship.
Taylor said LSU hasn’t had them often since Kelly became the coach, with "maybe one scuffle last year." Taylor said there have been two this preseason in the span of four practices.
"Coach Kelly even said to the team we've got to start respecting our brotherhood and respecting our teammates," Taylor said. "At the end of the day, we're going to compete and emotions do get high. We have to control them."
Encouraging youth
With LSU's top receivers either out or caught up in the fight, the young pass catchers had another strong day.
Freshman wide receivers Shelton Sampson, Kyle Parker and Jalen Brown all hauled in deep balls during either the full-team period or 7-on-7 work. Parker dropped one throw, but he beat a cornerback down the sideline a few plays later.
Freshman tight ends Ka’Morreun Pimpton and Jackson McGohan also made grabs, with Pimpton boxing out defenders over the middle.
Parker and Brown were in the mix when LSU worked on punt and kickoff returns, an area of concern last season. The other punt returners were redshirt freshman wide receiver Aaron Anderson, senior wide receiver Gregory Clayton and redshirt freshman wide receiver Javen Nicholas. Running backs Noah Cain, Logan Diggs and Trey Holly caught kickoffs.
Anderson continues to look dynamic in space. He turned around starting safety Major Burns before making a short catch in a 1-on-1 rep. He bobbled one of the punt returns but caught the other cleanly, then used his quickness to dart between people.
Injury updates
Redshirt sophomore cornerback JK Johnson had a cast on his lower left leg and used a scooter to get around. The nature of the injury and how much time he will miss are unknown. Without him, LSU has six scholarship cornerbacks.
Junior wide receiver Brian Thomas joined practice late and did not participate, though he was wearing his helmet and shoulder pads. There was black tape on the back of his left thigh.
Senior safety Greg Brooks left early on. Once he returned, still with his pads on, Brooks watched the rest of practice. Senior running back Josh Williams left at one point and returned to the field without his pads or helmet during the final period.
Four players — redshirt sophomore safety Matthew Langlois, junior defensive end Paris Shand, sophomore kicker Nathan Dibert and freshman safety Kylin Jackson — were dressed out but either watched from the side or worked with athletic trainers.

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