Ed Orgeron

Ed Orgeron makes his first stop at ESPN with Mike & Mike. 

Ed Orgeron revealed Wednesday that LSU quarterback Danny Etling is “about 90 percent" healthy and that edge rusher Arden Key is "ahead of schedule" in his rehabilitation from shoulder surgery. 

Orgeron spent seven hours Wednesday at ESPN studios in Bristol, Connecticut, making interview stops at 11 sets and expounding on two of the more talked-about issues of LSU's offseason: the health of his presumed starting QB and record-setting defensive end/outside linebacker.

“He’s healthy," Orgeron said of Etling. "We can’t see him throw in the summer, but he says he’s about 90 percent. Danny’s a battler, a fighter, somebody you love in the huddle.”

Orgeron raved about Etling as a “gamer” who “thrives on competition." The coach reaffirmed what he said last week: Etling would be his starting quarterback if the team played today.

Etling is just three months removed from having what the school called “minor” back surgery. He's expected to be ready for the start of preseason camp July 31, the coach said.

That's not the case for Key. He'll miss the start of camp, which Orgeron revealed last week at SEC media days. Key underwent shoulder surgery in late May, and he could miss early-season game action while recovering. 

Orgeron told The Advocate on Tuesday that Key has started running, a step forward in his rehabilitation. On the air with Paul Finebaum on Wednesday, Orgeron went a step further.

"I expect him to be ready towards the beginning of the season," the coach said. "He’s ahead of schedule on his rehab."

The Tigers play nonconference teams in four of their first five games. They meet BYU in Houston on Sept. 2 before hosting Chattanooga and then traveling to Mississippi State. Home games against Syracuse and Troy follow before a trip to Florida.

Key and Etling are pivotal to the Tigers' hopes in 2017.

Key set the school's single-season sack record last season, and many project him as a first-round NFL draft pick next year. His absence could force a young player into action. Orgeron on Tuesday mentioned five potential replacements for Key, if he were to miss game time. The first three he listed — Ray Thornton, Andre Anthony and K'Lavon Chaisson — have never played in a college game.

Etling's backups boast similar limited experience. Just one of the four quarterbacks behind him have thrown a pass in a college game: third-year sophomore Justin McMillan. None of the other three has played in a game.

Etling played all of last season with the back issue, which caused shooting pain down his left leg. He chose to participate in spring practice, putting off surgery until after drills.

Etling, a 10-game starter last season after taking over for Brandon Harris, is the clear favorite to serve as LSU’s starter this year, but Orgeron reaffirmed that he’ll keep the starting job open during camp, as he has yet to see freshman Myles Brennan.

Asked about having a timetable for naming a starter, Orgeron said, “Right now, Danny’s our starter, and nobody’s beaten him out. Everybody knows that. If we would have played today, Danny is our starter.”

The coach praised his fifth-year senior quarterback, saying he has progressed in coordinator Matt Canada’s new scheme.

Etling is receiving national attention this summer. He attended the Manning Passing Academy in Thibodaux and represented LSU at the SEC Spring Meeting as part of the league's new players-only leadership council. He has landed on two preseason award watch lists: the Wuerffel Trophy (awarded to the player who best combines community service with athletic and academic achievement) and the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award (awarded to a fourth-year quarterback based on off- and on-the-field achievements). 

“I really like Danny. Danny is a gamer,” Orgeron said. “He’s gotten better in Matt’s offense."

Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter, @RossDellenger.