Injury situation could impact MSU, LSU game

MSU's Malik Dear (22)
Staff Writer

Who will play? Who can’t?
The answers to those two questions might have a big impact on Saturday’s highly-anticipated matchup between Mississippi State and No. 12 LSU.
Both the Bulldogs and Tigers have players battling injury situations ahead of Saturday’s game, but each team might be getting back closer to full strength once the lights come on at Davis Wade Stadium.

MSU head coach Dan Mullen noted Wednesday on the Southeastern Conference coaches teleconference that Bulldogs junior wide receiver Malik Dear, who has been out since the spring when he tore an ACL, was back on the practice field this week and might make his season debut against the Tigers.

“He’s getting back into it and has done some individual stuff,” Mullen said of Dear. “He even did a little bit of team things the other day. We’ll see how he progresses. It’ll be questionable whether or not he plays this week and we’ll make that decision probably Friday or Saturday morning.”

The addition of Dear back into the fold would only strengthen what has become a formidable group of MSU receivers. When healthy, Dear is an offensive weapon for the Bulldogs that can hurt opponents in multiple ways. The versatile athlete has 481 total yards receiving in his career and four touchdown catches. He has also rushed for 234 yards and two scores over the course of his freshman and sophomore seasons.

On the other side, LSU head coach Ed Orgeron has confirmed the Tigers will welcome back one of its best defensive performers on Saturday. Junior linebacker Arden Key has missed the Tigers’ first two games this season as he recovered from offseason shoulder surgery.

However Orgeron said Key will start against the Bulldogs, but just how much he’ll be able to play remains to be seen.

“We’ve got to wait and see what happens,” Orgeron said. “To be honest with you, he was a little rusty (Tuesday at practice). Obviously he got all the reps with the first team. His football conditioning is not where we want it to be right now, but I think he’s going to get there.

“We’re going to have to rotate him in the game. He cannot play a whole game right now. We feel good with K’Lavon Chaisson backing him up. (Key) will start. K’Lavon will back him up. I think we’ll be very strong there.”

While Key is back, the status of another big piece of LSU’s defense remains in question. Tigers defensive end Rashard Lawrence missed last week’s game against Chattanooga because of an ankle ailment. This came after the sophomore totaled a career-best four tackles and a half sack against BYU in the season opener.

Lawrence has practiced this week, but Orgeron says it’s unlikely Lawrence will be good to go against MSU.

“He’s very questionable,” Orgeron said of Lawrence. “I don’t think he’s going to play. He can’t practice full speed right now. I don’t know. It’s (the middle of the week) already. I don’t think he’s going to play.”

No matter who can play or who can’t, both Orgeron and Mullen are looking forward to Saturday night.

It’s still early in the season, but it’s never too soon to make a statement in the SEC.

“We expect a great atmosphere and a great game and it’s a great way to kick off the conference schedule,” Mullen said.