By JAMES MORAN | Tiger Rag Associate Editor
It’s looking increasingly likely that LSU will begin the season without its All-American edge rusher.
Outside linebacker Arden Key is “not expected” to play in LSU’s season opener against BYU on Sept. 2, LSU coach Ed Orgeron said after practice Thursday.
Nothing has been ruled out, the coach made abundantly clear, but with Key at this point still not taking any contact reps, it’s unlikely Key will suit up in Houston.
“I don’t think so,” Orgeron said of Key’s chances at being available. “I’m not sure, but I don’t think so. I’m not expecting it. But nothing that dude does surprises me. He’s going to go to his doctor next week and we should know pretty soon when he’s going to play.”
Key hasn’t suffered any setbacks since undergoing shoulder surgery this summer, Orgeron said, and is “ahead of schedule” in terms of his recovery.
The junior practiced in pads Thursday and took on some blocks, the coach said, but there doesn’t appear to be a set timetable in place for Key to become a full participant in practice.
“I just don’t know when he’s going to be ready,” Orgeron said. “He’s not hitting. He’s going through some walkthrough stuff and he had his pads on. I had to take him out the drills. He wants to go. He’s stepping through stuff, using his hands, reading his keys. Does some pass-rush moves. Runs around. But he’s not taking any contact.”
Due to his continued absence, the ‘Buck’ linebacker spot he normally occupies is one of the hottest position battles going as LSU heads into this weekend’s third preseason game.
Redshirt freshman Ray Thornton and true freshman K’Lavon Chaisson are presently the leading contenders if someone has to fill in against BYU. Andre Anthony has fallen a bit behind, Orgeron said, due to a minor injury that’s kept him out of practice.
“Those guys are fighting, and they’re fighting hard,” Orgeron said. “It’s either going to be Ray or K’Lavon.”
For two weeks LSU had a hard enough time putting a representative first-team offensive line on the practice field due to a litany of injuries.
Now that the Tigers have their full complement of scholarship linemen available for the first time in camp, there’s a battle brewing for playing time.
Orgeron said the right guard spot remains a competition heading into Saturday’s scrimmage and listed freshmen Lloyd Cushenberry and Ed Ingram as co-starters at this point in camp.
“Ed and Lloyd both took snaps at right guard,” the coach said. “I’m going to talk to (LSU offensive line coach) Jeff (Grimes), but I’d think Lloyd would have a little bit of an edge up right now just because he’s been with us in the spring. But I wouldn’t say that’s for sure.”
Cushenberry, who assumed the starting role once Maea Teuhema transferred, worked at center while Will Clapp was out of practice. Ingram worked in his place at right guard and has drawn high praise.
Here’s the full first-team line, according to Orgeron:
LT: K.J. Malone
LG: Garrett Brumfield
C: Will Clapp
RG: Ed Ingram/Lloyd Cushenberry
RT: Toby Weathersby
– Orgeron did mention two other position battles that’ll continue into the final week of camp. Freshmen Jacob Phillips, Tyler Taylor and Patrick Queen are battling to be the second-team linebackers while Grant Delpit and Ed Paris are now co-starters at free safety.
– Running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire returned to practice after missing some time due to a hard hit sustained in practice. Orgeron said the freshman could wind up being LSU’s starting kick returner.
– Saturday will be LSU’s final significant preseason scrimmage. Each unit will run 70 plays, Orgeron said, with a focus on situational football: short yardage, goal line, red zone, two minute and overtime.
– With installation of Matt Canada’s offense nearing completion, LSU will open practice to the media beginning Monday. LSU will also begin turning its attention to BYU next week. The plan, according to Orgeron, has been to finish installing the offense by Saturday.
– Nose tackle Tyler Shelvin continues to wait for approval from NCAA Clearinghouse, a process Orgeron said was “taking a little while longer” than initially thought.