By JAMES MORAN | Tiger Rag Associate Editor
Wherever LSU opens the season against BYU, it’ll do so without All-American edge rusher Arden Key.
As long expected, Key will not play against BYU on Saturday night, LSU coach Ed Orgeron announced at his press luncheon Monday. As of last week, he’d yet to be cleared for contact after offseason shoulder surgery.
LSU has been preparing for life without Key since the start of training camp. Orgeron didn’t name a starter at ‘Buck’ in his place, choosing instead to let Ray Thornton, K’Lavon Chaisson and Andre Anthony continue battling in practice this week.
“Our ‘B’ linebacker is still up in the air, we haven’t decided who it’s going to be,” Orgeron said. “That could be up to a game-time decision. I want to see how they practice all week. Very young players and we still need a week of work there.”
Defensive coordinator Dave Aranda said last week that LSU plans to deploy one defense without Key and another once the star eventually returns to the field.
“If you have Arden, you feature him,” the coach began. “You put him in a position to create mismatches. You find the weakest offender and you shift the numbers away from Arden so there’s a choice that has to be made. You build around him.”
Aranda continued: “If you don’t have Arden, you lose that aspect so it’s very much a team. There’s more blitzes involved. You’re going to show more inside pressure. You’ll show overload pressure and field pressure and boundary pressure. It’s less a feature of Arden and has more of a team aspect to it.”
Running back Derrius Guice, LSU’s other preseason All-American, will be “eased into” practice this week, Orgeron said, and the coach wasn’t “100 percent sure” he’d play against BYU.
“We’re going to see how this week goes,” the coach said. “Do I think Derrius is going to play? Yes. Am I 100 percent sure right now? No. I’ve got to see how he practices this week.”
Guice underwent wisdom tooth surgery last week, according to posts on social media, but Orgeron would not confirm that’s the reason Guice missed practice time last week.
SPECIAL TEAMS BATTLES WON
Orgeron is letting several key position battles continue to run their course into game week, but the coach named several starters for LSU’s various special teams units.
Walk-on Jack Gonsulin won LSU’s place kicker battle after making 85 percent of his field goal attempts during camp, Orgeron said. Connor Culp, who battled Gonsulin for the job, will handle kickoff duties.
Freshman running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire will return kickoffs for the Tigers, Orgeron said, and either cornerback Donte Jackson or wide receiver Derrick Dillon will return punts.