It’s finally official: Arden Key won’t play in LSU’s season opener Saturday against BYU in New Orleans.
Key, the junior and All-America edge rusher, is not yet fully recovered from having shoulder surgery in May and will miss the opener, coach Ed Orgeron said Monday at his weekly news conference.
"Arden Key will not play in this game," Orgeron said. "Ray Thornton, K'Lavon Chaisson or Andre Anthony will be the starter. That could be an up-to-game-time decision. I want to see how they practice all week. Very young players, and we still need a week of work there."
This is the latest in a drama-filled past few months for Key, the school’s single-season sack record holder. He missed spring practice while taking a leave of absence from the team and then underwent the shoulder procedure in late May, mending an issue that lingered through last season.
Orgeron made it clear during the offseason that Key’s status was in doubt for the early portion of LSU’s season. The Georgia native visited his personal doctor last week, Orgeron said, and was not cleared for contact. He has practiced with the team this August, but only in a limited capacity, going through noncontact drills.
Redshirt freshmen Thornton and Anthony and true freshman Chaisson are competing for Key’s spot. All three are expected to see time at the Buck outside linebacker position, Orgeron said.
Defensive coordinator Dave Aranda explained last week how LSU will play differently without Key, aside from missing the athleticism of a player whom many expect to be picked in the first round of the 2018 NFL draft.
“I think if you have Arden, you feature him. You get him into position to make mismatches,” Aranda said. “You find the weakest offender and put Arden there, then you try to show numbers away from Arden so there’s a choice that has to be made. So you gear everything you’re doing around him.
“If you don’t have Arden, you very much lose that aspect,” he said. “Now it’s a team. There’s more blitzes involved. I think there’s more, ‘We’re going to show inside pressure to bring outside pressure. We’re going to show overload field pressure to bring boundary pressure.' It’s less a feature of Arden and more a team aspect to it.”
Guice 'not 100 percent'
Orgeron said running back Derrius Guice will be "eased into practice" this week but declined to say whether he would definitely play against BYU, terming his star player "not 100 percent."
Guice was at practice Monday, but the Tigers were not in pads. LSU players were wearing long pants, so no brace was visible.
Guice missed practice last week with what Orgeron only termed "an injury." Fellow running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire tweeted last week that Guice was suffering from wisdom tooth issues.
Guice, a junior, led the Southeastern Conference in 2016 with 1,387 yards rushing along with 15 touchdowns. He enters this season in the conversation for the Heisman Trophy.
Gonsoulin to start at kicker
Another former Catholic high teammate of Guice and Edwards-Helaire, sophomore kicker Jack Gonsoulin, won the job to be LSU's starting place-kicker, Orgeron announced. Gonsoulin beat out redshirt freshman Connor Culp, who in turn beat out senior Cameron Gamble to handle kickoff duties.
"We're proud to see that we had a field-goal competition and Jack Gonsoulin won it," Orgeron said. "He kicked 85 percent of his kicks in camp, and I'm very proud to say that Jack has fought very hard to win that position."
Orgeron did not give any percentages for the other kickers.
Gonsoulin, who replaces departed senior Colby Delahoussaye, made his one extra-point attempt last season. He has yet to attempt a field goal in a college game. Gonsoulin was a Class 5A all-state selection as a high school senior, making a long field goal of 50 yards.
Advocate sportswriter Scott Rabalais contributed to this report.