ORLANDO, Fla. — Ed Orgeron does not agree with draft-eligible juniors skipping bowl games, and he made that abundantly clear Sunday.
Orgeron praised running back Derrius Guice’s decision to play in LSU’s Citrus Bowl game against Notre Dame on Monday, while expressing his disagreement with those highly touted underclassmen who pass on their final game.
“I really want to compliment him for playing in this game,” Orgeron said of Guice during a news conference Sunday. “Obviously, other people make other choices, which I don’t think is right. I think you need to finish with your team, if you’re healthy. Derrius is healthy. He’s ready to go. He’s had some little nicks and bruises. He could have used them as an excuse (not to play). He wanted to represent LSU and finish the right way, if indeed this is his last game. He hasn’t told me it is yet.”
Guice, a Baton Rouge native, is projected by some as a first-round pick in the NFL draft. The LSU staff expects him to forgo his senior season for the pro level, along with edge rusher Arden Key, the school’s single-season sack record holder.
Key is not playing in the Citrus Bowl, Orgeron announced earlier this month. The coach cited health reasons for Key’s decision. The junior All-American missed the final two games of the regular season with a knee injury, and he underwent finger surgery a month ago. He’s projected as a top 20 selection in the draft.
Running back Leonard Fournette last year did not play in the Citrus Bowl, announcing his decision to turn pro a few weeks before the game. Fournette told reporters last season that Orgeron decided he should not play in the game against Louisville last December.
ORLANDO, Fla. — When the Citrus Bowl ends New Year’s Day afternoon, an era of LSU football will come to an end as well.
Orgeron’s comments Sunday seemed pointed and almost prepared, but they were not referring to Key or Fournette, he clarified afterward with The Advocate.
“Arden Key was hurt. Leonard Fournette was hurt,” Orgeron said. “Leonard and I had a conversation, and he could not play. Arden Key could not practice. I was in the decision with Leonard and Arden. It was the right decision for them not to play. I think if a guy is completely healthy, he should play. They were not completely healthy.”
Highly rated juniors skipping bowl games has become somewhat of a trend sweeping college football, as players choose not to risk injury in a bowl matchup with the draft — and a multi-million dollar check — four months away.
“I’m very proud of him (for playing),” Orgeron said of Guice. “Once you do that, as a junior, the LSU family or any family will respect you, and the thing about coming to college is getting your education and network. Your network, you want to keep in good faith with those guys. I think this is going to pay off for Derrius in the long run.
“Some juniors decide not to play in the bowl. I think that lets your team down,” Orgeron continued. “Derrius could have done that, and he didn’t do that. We had a little conversation about that. He was not going to do that. It makes me proud for Derrius.”
Guice has battled a slew of injuries this season, notably a knee he tweaked during preseason camp, an injury that lingered through the first half of the season. Guice has not spoken to reporters since the regular season ended.
“Time to heal some injuries helped him,” Orgeron said. “He’s had some of his best practices I’ve seen.”
Toward the back of Shaun Houston’s home was a room where video games are played.
Skipping bowl games is a hot button issue in college athletics these days. Many are split on the issue, including several LSU football players.
“I think if you’re able to play, you should play,” nose tackle Greg Gilmore said. “That’s my personal opinion. … If I was projected first round, I’d still play.”
Guard Garrett Brumfield said: “I see both sides of it. I look at it like, he’s a college football player playing a college football game, but I can understand the mindset of some guys. You have millions (of) dollars waiting on you. I could understand it. I can’t say I’d be mad at someone for making their decision. It’s their own personal decision.”
Said F-back JD Moore: “It’s a tough situation to put myself in. As much work as we put in, there’s a lot to consider. They have a very wealthy future. I’d have to weigh the options of potentially getting injured in an extra game, but at the same time wanting to remain loyal to the guys you worked with all year. It’s something that has to be made on a personal basis.”
ORLANDO, Fla. — When you play Notre Dame, you play the team on the field and you play the one off of it.