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LSU defensive tackle Joseph Evans (94) celebrates after stopping Central Michigan running back Lew Nichols III (7) in the first half, Saturday, September 18, 2021, at Tiger Stadium on the campus of LSU in Baton Rouge, La.

Adding to an already brutal week, LSU coach Ed Orgeron confirmed two more starters will miss the rest of the year, reducing the number of available players on what once was the team's deepest position group: the defensive line.

Senior defensive end Ali Gaye needs surgery for an undisclosed injury that has lingered throughout the season, and Orgeron said he doesn’t expect sophomore nose tackle Joseph Evans to play again this year.

Gaye’s status was “up in the air” the past few days, Orgeron said Thursday evening, after he left in the second half of LSU’s loss last weekend to Kentucky. Gaye had also missed two games earlier this season.

“That was a reoccurring injury with Ali,” Orgeron said. “Just kept on popping out, popping out.”

Orgeron didn’t provide the reason Evans won’t return this season. He previously said Evans, who missed LSU's last game after appearing in five games this year with four starts, wouldn't play Saturday morning against No. 20 Florida. Evans had eight tackles, including two for a loss.

LSU entered the season with possibly more talent on the defensive line than any other position, and the Tigers led the country in sacks through three games. But then senior defensive end Andre Anthony suffered a season-ending knee injury against Central Michigan, and LSU lost Gaye and Evans within the last two weeks. 

Orgeron said freshman Maason Smith will replace Gaye at defensive end this weekend. Smith, a former five-star recruit whose natural position is left defensive end, had played inside at times this season. Sophomore BJ Ojulari will start at the other defensive end spot, and senior Neil Farrell Jr. will start at nose tackle.

Providing one shred of positivity, senior defensive tackle Glen Logan is expected to play in his first game this weekend after missing the previous six because of a broken right foot suffered during preseason camp.

Sophomore nose tackle Jaquelin Roy, sophomore defensive tackle Jacobian Guillory and senior defensive end Soni Fonua will provide depth, but LSU doesn’t have as much as it did before the season.

"We're shuffling people around," Orgeron said.

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Gaye entered the year as one of the best players on LSU’s defense after he recorded 32 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss and two sacks in 2020, his first season at LSU after two years in junior college.

But Gaye, a senior from The Gambia, needed attention from athletic trainers last weekend for what LSU Radio described as a "stinger." Gaye's season ended with 19 tackles and 2.5 sacks.

Some of his teammates posted Thursday on Instagram wishing him luck during surgery.

“Praying for a safe and healthy surgery bro!” Fonua wrote. “Shake back!”

With Gaye and Evans out, LSU has now lost four starters this week. They joined sophomore wide receiver Kayshon Boutte (right ankle) and sophomore cornerback Eli Ricks (torn labrum), who both needed season-ending surgery.

On top of that, senior linebacker Jared Small suffered a season-ending knee injury before the season, Anthony went down and All-American cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. is out indefinitely due to a foot injury that needed a procedure.

With safety Major Burns sidelined for the next three weeks, Orgeron said, and running back John Emery Jr. out for the year because of academic ineligibility, LSU will move forward without nine players listed as starters on the depth chart before the season opener.

As the losses pile up, the team reaches an unprecedented number of injuries and LSU sits at 3-3, Orgeron said the players who stepped into the vacant spots have practiced well this week, adamant that LSU will continue to play hard the next six games.

Even one of the players who will spend the rest of the season watching from the sideline has tried to help. Anthony, who recently underwent surgery, led a players’ only meeting Monday, Orgeron said, trying to inspire his teammates who still have half a season ahead.

“I know we’re 3-3,” Orgeron said, “but we got a lot of games left, and for what I've seen this week, what I've seen with the coaching staff, there's a lot of fight left in this team.”

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