LSU matching Notre Dame's Citrus Bowl attrition as LB Arden Key latest to drop out

Eric Hansen
South Bend Tribune

The one consolation in Notre Dame’s recent run of football roster attrition is that Citrus Bowl opponent, 16th-ranked LSU, seems determined to match or exceed it.

Shortly after the news broke Wednesday that wide receiver Kevin Stepherson and running back C.J. Holmes were being suspended from all football-related activities and that tight end Brock Wright would join wide receiver Chase Claypool on Notre Dame’s injured list, Tigers coach Ed Orgeron stepped up with his dour news.

The biggest name to drop out of LSU’s Citrus Bowl participation list is junior outside linebacker and elite pass rusher Arden Key.

Ross Dellenger of The Baton Rouge (La.) Advocate first reported the news.

The 6-foot-6, 265-pound junior and AP preseason All-American had yet to practice for the Jan. 1 matchup with No. 14 ND (9-3) in Orlando, Fla., because of finger and knee injuries. And Orgeron on Wednesday officially ruled him out for the game.

“That decision kind of came down today,” Orgeron said. “I’ve talked to him. I know he’s tried.”

That makes three starting linebackers sidelined for the fourth-ever bowl matchup between the Tigers (9-3) and the Irish. Seniors Corey Thompson and Donnie Alexander were also ruled out Wednesday because of injury issues.

Senior kickoff man Cameron Gamble will miss the game after being ruled ineligible, per Orgeron.

Key is expected to skip his senior season at LSU and enter the 2018 NFL Draft, projecting as a first-rounder. ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay slotted Key as the No. 9 pick overall — to the New York Jets — in a mock draft published last week, while fellow ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. recently rated Key as the No. 16 prospect in the draft on his big board.

Key was fourth in the country in sacks per game as a sophomore in 2016 with a single-season school record 12, but fell off dramatically in 2017 to four sacks, as injuries limited him to eight games, all starts. Overall, Key has 33 tackles, 5.5 for loss, this season for the nation’s No. 13 team in total defense.

Alexander ranked fifth on the team in tackles this past season with 51. He had a sack, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Thompson recorded 43 tackles, seven for loss. He had six sacks.

Gamble was an outstanding kickoff man, with 30 touchbacks among his 62 kickoffs this season.

Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts carries the ball before being tackled by LSU linebacker Arden Key during the first half of an SEC game, Nov. 4 in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/BRYNN ANDERSON)