BATON ROUGE, La. — For a man who guaranteed a 20-sack season, going a week without bringing down the quarterback must be a huge confidence killer.
At first, that was the position Arden Key found himself in. Barely a play goes by where Key isn’t double-teamed, chipped or a victim of slide protection. This has limited Key, the SEC’s leader in sacks with 7, to just 0.5 sacks in the Tigers’ last two games. But he knows there’s a bright side to all the extra attention he’s been getting.
“It’s kind of frustrating that I’m not getting it, but they’re game-planning off of me,” Key said. “I’m still getting pressures, I’m still affecting the quarterback. But I’m also opening up the gateways for my other teammates like (Lewis Neal, Davon Godchaux and Greg Gilmore) to get sacks and that’s what they’ve been doing.”
Key isn’t wrong about that. He’s still influencing the quarterback; Saturday against Southern Miss he had 2 quarterback pressures and a pass breakup. But more importantly, his teammates recorded 2 sacks — one that stripped the quarterback of the ball. And Key said he’s happy to see his teammates benefiting from the attention he gets.
That said, he thinks his luck is about to change against a pass-happy Ole Miss squad.
“This game, I feel like I’m supposed to have 3 sacks,” Key said. “I don’t see a Laremy Tunsil anymore. We went back-and-forth last year. But I feel like that ain’t going to be there.”
Last season against Tunsil, a two-time All-SEC offensive lineman who was picked in the first round of last spring’s NFL Draft by the Miami Dolphins, Key was held to 2 tackles, 1 for loss, and without a sack. He described matching up against Tunsil like Elmer Fudd might describe hunting for Bugs Bunny, saying Tunsil would be in one place, but then just pop up somewhere else to close any lane to the quarterback.
Key has his sights on the Rebels and their gifted quarterback Chad Kelly, who he respects as a passer and a runner. But Key also seems to have his sights on Tunsil and what he’ll have to contend with at the next level.
“I like Laremy. I wish I could see him again this Saturday,” Key said. “But I have to wait.”