In the stands Saturday night at Auburn’s Jordan-Hare Stadium, Arden Key will have more family and friends than normal.
He’s from just outside of a Atlanta, a two-hour drive from the south Alabama town.
“This is my first time going to Auburn,” said Key, LSU’s star outside linebacker who’s second nationally with 5 sacks through three games. “Jamal (Adams) and Leonard (Fournette) tell me that Auburn is kind of loud. Fans are going to be there. I can’t wait to play in that stadium.”
Key grew up watching the NFL, not college football, so he doesn’t have any connection to Auburn despite the proximity to his home. And, yes, Auburn is loud. No. 17 LSU (2-1, 1-0 SEC) practiced this week with music blaring in its indoor football facility, and coach Les Miles said the team has trimmed the pre-snap calls for new starting quarterback Danny Etling.
Jordan-Hare might be loud, but opponents have thrived there recently. Auburn (1-2, 0-1) has lost seven straight home games to Power 5 teams, second-most nationally. Key, of course, likes the sound of that and this: Auburn has been stopped for negative yardage on 32 plays this season, more than any other team in the nation.
Key has 19 quarterback hurries through three games. He’s averaging a QB hurry or sack in one out of every five pass rush, according to Pro Football Focus. That’s tops nationally for a 3-4 outside linebacker, a position in which Key’s duties are to drop into coverage and also rush the passer.
“I know last game, I rushed more times than I dropped. I don’t think I even dropped last game,” he said of the win over Mississippi State. “Last game, probably rushed 90 percent of the time. Games before that I rushed 60-70 percent of the time.”
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Key’s success in pass rushing is being noticed. Offensive linemen are beginning to double team him, having a second lineman assist on a block early in the play —something called “chipping.”
“I feel attention. I got chipped several times against Mississippi State,” Key said. “I feel like they’re going to try to chip me even more.”
Don’t worry, Key and the defensive coaches have a plan.
“We can do so many things where I don’t have to get chipped,” he said. “There are ways around it.”