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LSU defensive back Donte Jackson (1) celebrates the safety sack by LSU linebacker Arden Key (49) during the first half of the Citrus Bowl.

ADVOCATE STAFF PHOTO BY BILL FEIG

NATCHITOCHES — Arden Key could return to the LSU football team as early as the start of the summer semester June 5.

Coach Ed Orgeron expects Key back to start summer school, he said during a speech at the Northwestern State Legends Gala on Friday night. Later, Orgeron said the school is targeting that date to have the All-American pass rusher return to the program.

That's a significant date in the offseason calendar. LSU's 2017 signees, excluding those already in school, will enroll in classes then, and summer workouts begin then, too. 

“I expect him to be back in summer school in June,” the coach said. “Doing very well. Still has things he’s working on.”

Key, a junior whom most expect to be a first-round selection in next year’s NFL draft, took a leave of absence from the program this spring for “personal reasons,” the school announced in February.

Key’s father, Arden Sr., told The Advocate in February that his son is healthy and “fine,” but he declined to reveal specifics. The school has asked media to respect Key and his family’s privacy.

Orgeron has talked somewhat openly about Key’s expected return during this spring, lumping his name, unprompted at times, into discussions about the team.

Orgeron sidestepped questions once. Key attended a spring scrimmage at Tiger Stadium a month ago, watching from the sideline, and he was spotted by reporters at the football operations facility later that day. Orgeron twice declined comment when asked in a post-scrimmage news conference about Key’s presence.

Key has gained nearly 20 pounds over the spring, up from 238 to about 255 — something he alluded to in a tweet last month. Key planned to gain weight over the offseason, he said last fall, hoping to play heavier than he did his first two years at LSU.

They were both strong seasons.

A freshman All-American in 2015 and a first-team All-SEC selection in 2016, Key finished his sophomore season with 12 sacks, 56 tackles and three forced fumbles. Key, a native of the Atlanta area, was the featured weapon in defensive coordinator Dave Aranda’s 3-4 alignment last year.

He did miss one game.

Key was suspended for the regular-season finale at Texas A&M, but he played in LSU's Citrus Bowl win over Louisville. A reason for his suspension in the A&M game was not made public.

A school spokesman at first announced that Key missed the A&M game while injured, but Orgeron later said the player was suspended for off-the-field issues.

Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter, @RossDellenger.