BYU LSU Football

LSU defensive end Rashard Lawrence (90) BYU quarterback Tanner Mangum (12) in the second half of an NCAA college football game in New Orleans, Saturday, Sept. 2, 2017. (AP Photo/Scott Threlkeld) ORG XMIT: LAST123

Scott Threlkeld

Rashard Lawrence’s update on his status this week is two words long.

“I’m playing,” the LSU defensive end said.

Lawrence, the sophomore whom coach Ed Orgeron describes as the team’s best defender, expects to play when LSU (3-2, 0-1 SEC) meets No. 21 Florida (3-1, 3-0) on Saturday in Gainesville, Florida. Nose tackle Ed Alexander also will return this week, Lawrence said during interviews Tuesday.

Alexander, a key rotational player, has missed the past two games with a broken finger on his right hand, and Lawrence has missed three of the first five games battling injuries to both ankles. Their absence was felt last week in a 24-21 loss to Troy.

The Trojans ran for 186 yards between the tackles on 29 carries Saturday night. That's a 6.4-yard average at the heart of the Tigers' defense. From the sideline, Lawrence noticed. Troy running backs picked up at least 3 yards on 11 of their 14 inside runs in the first half alone.

“They did get a lot of inside runs on us,” Lawrence said. “It was tough when me and Rougarou (Alexander) aren’t out there. Gong to be good to have us both back this week. I think it will be a big difference.”

The Gators are a run-heavy squad with a trio of backs: freshman Malik Davis (43 attempts, 319 yards), sophomore Lamical Perine (38-148) and redshirt senior Mark Thompson (24-81).

Orgeron hopes Lawrence’s insertion this week can help boost a run defense that allowed 206 yards against Troy and 285 against Mississippi State without him.

“I mean, the two games we lost, he's not in there,” Orgeron said. “And he makes a difference, not only his playmaking ability but the way he leads, his heart, his want to do good for Louisiana. He's a 4.0 grade-point average. I mean, you couldn't ask for a better kid. He does everything right and he plays. And so he's one of our leaders.”

Lawrence says he’s “moving real good right now” on the ankles. He injured the left in the season opener, missing Games 2 and 3, and he missed last week with a right ankle sprain he injured against Syracuse.

While the Tigers get back Alexander and Lawrence this week, they’ll return fifth-year senior Frank Herron next week against Auburn after what was presumed to be a half-season suspension.

“That’s going to be huge. Rougarou is going to be ready to go this week. We get Frank back for Auburn,” Lawrence said. “That’s going to be big. Going to have all hands on deck. It’s going to be very crucial to get those guys back.”

Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter, @RossDellenger.