Arden Key’s status for LSU’s bowl game remains uncertain, and the same goes for running back Derrius Guice’s future, coach Ed Orgeron said.

Key, the All-American junior edge rusher, missed the Tigers’ first bowl practice Tuesday, and his health – an injured knee and surgically repaired finger – “hasn’t come around like” Orgeron thought. Meanwhile, his star tailback is toying with a potential return for his senior season, Orgeron suggested.

“I’m not sure he’s made a total decision that he’s leaving yet after talking to him,” the coach said in a news conference following his team’s first practice ahead of the Citrus Bowl against Notre Dame on Jan. 1.

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Guice, a junior and Baton Rouge native, has suggested in social media posts over the last two weeks that he may return for another year, despite lofty draft projections. Many predict him as a first-round pick in the NFL draft in April.

Guice announced earlier this month that he would make a decision on his future after the Tigers’ bowl game, which he plans to play in – something that brings a smile to his coach’s face.

“It means a lot. That’s who he is,” Orgeron said. “Derrius loves football, loved every day he’s walked into this room. I’ve never seen him down. He wants to finish strong. I’m sure he’s motivated. A 10-win season for him would mean a lot for us.”

The 16th-ranked Tigers (9-3) and 14th-ranked Irish (9-3) meet on New Year’s Day at noon CT in Orlando, Florida. LSU may have to do it without Key, another junior projected as a first-round pick.

Key missed the last two games of the regular season with a knee injury he suffered against Arkansas, and he underwent surgery two weeks ago to mend a broken pinky finger that he’d played with for nearly two months.

“Arden is questionable. He hasn’t come around like I thought he was going to come around,” the coach said. “He’s not practicing, and he’s questionable.”

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Balancing act

LSU coaches this week are balancing recruiting with practice, and it’s not easy – but it is fun, Orgeron claims.

“I like it myself, especially when I go into one home and there’s gumbo with potato salad,” he said. “I went into the next home and it was the best red beans and rice and fried chicken and cornbread I’d ate in a long time. Gotta get some bigger pants.”

The open-contact period runs through this weekend, allowing coaches to visit recruits’ homes at night and host them on visits over the weekend. Meanwhile, coaches are putting current members of the team through practice Tuesday-Thursday this week.

“Coaches at night are going recruiting on home visits,” Orgeron said. “We’re balancing both of them. Very big weekend this weekend (with) official visitors.”

The early signing period is making this week even more hectic. Orgeron expects 15-20 of his 20 commitments to sign during the early period on Dec. 20-22.

“We have a big practice that day,” he said of Dec. 20. “We’re going to be waiting by the fax machine early in the morning … before practice. Going to be interesting.”

O hoping Battle returns

Orgeron “hopes” redshirt junior John Battle elects to return for his fifth-year of eligibility, but he’s unsure of the safety’s final decision.

Battle was granted a medical redshirt over the offseason for his freshman season in 2014. He was reclassified from a senior to a redshirt junior. In preseason interviews, Battle said he did not necessarily expect to use the extra year. He’s battled through an injury-plagued season in 2017.

“I hope so,” Orgeron said when asked if Battle plans to use his extra year. “He hadn’t told me. I think most of the guys are going to talk to me after the bowl. Nobody I know that I know has made a clear decision or come spoke to me.”

Orgeron has made it clear throughout this season that he expects Key, Guice and cornerbacks Donte Jackson and Kevin Toliver to forgo their seniors seasons and turn pro. Offensive linemen Will Clapp, Garrett Brumfield and Toby Weathersby are also starting players who are draft-eligible.

Malone ‘ready to go’

Left tackle KJ Malone is cleared for contact and is “ready to go,” Orgeron said.

Malone, a senior, missed the last six games of the regular season after suffering a left knee injury in the win at Florida. He practiced some during the final week of the regular season and dressed out in the game against Texas A&M but did not play. Malone practiced Tuesday, participating in drills like other players without any brace on the knee.

He’s been replaced in the lineup be true freshman Saahdiq Charles.

Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter, @RossDellenger.