No, LSU didn’t come out on top against Alabama on Saturday. But the Tigers got the latest sign that Arden Key is getting back to full strength.
For the third consecutive game, and against the most formidable opposition yet, Key was a disruptive force off the edge and showed a glimpse of the talent that led some analysts in the preseason to label him as a potential No. 1 overall draft pick, including one who compared him to a Pro Football Hall of Famer.
Key was returning from an injury and wasn’t playing like that in the first half of the season. He’s getting closer now.
Against the Crimson Tide, with its proven front of Jonah Williams, Ross Pierschbacher, Bradley Bozeman, Lester Cotton and Matt Womack, Key found room to create trouble. He finished with eight tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, half a sack and two quarterback hurries on Alabama’s Jalen Hurts. Key’s eight tackles were his season-high, and only linebacker Devin White made more (nine).
Even better is that this seems to be a trend. Key made six tackles against Auburn, six against Ole Miss and now eight against Alabama. He’s also picked up five tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks during that span.
By contrast, Key had only 10 tackles and half a tackle for loss in the previous four games combined, against Mississippi State, Syracuse, Troy and Florida. During that stretch, the worst of his LSU career, coach Ed Orgeron said Key was “rusty” following offseason shoulder surgery.
The rust is gone now. That’s a boost for a pass rush that already fared well even with Key playing below his best.
With 3.33 sacks per game, the Tigers rank eighth in the nation and second in the SEC, behind Texas A&M. Christian LaCouture and Greg Gilmore have 5.5 sacks each, and Corey Thompson has emerged as an unexpected pass-rushing threat with five sacks.
If Key keeps up his recent surge, the Tigers are well-placed to continue their assault on quarterbacks and finish off a strong push for second place in the SEC West.
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