One of the college football’s top defenses took a major step backwards Friday afternoon, with Louisiana State University head coach Les Miles informing members of the media junior defensive back for the Tigers, Tyrann Mathieu, had been dismissed from the program – and this just three weeks before LSU’s season opener against North Texas.
Mathieu – nicknamed Honey Badger for his unyielding style of play and a signature blond streak of hair – was dismissed due to his breaking both an LSU athletic department and football program policy.
No specifics regarding the nature of the violaton were made available.
A source close to the player, however, tells The Times-Picayune that Mathieu’s offense was failing a drug test, his second since last season when synthetic marijuana landed the Tigers’ cornerback, running back Spencer Ware and fellow defensive back Tharold Simon a one-game suspension.
“We’ll miss the guy,” Miles said SI.com of the 5-9, 175 pound standout cornerback, who last year emerged from obscurity to become a dark horse candidate in the race for the Heisman Trophy. “The football team’s got to go on. We’ll have to fill the void.”
“This is a very difficult day for our team,” Miles added during what The Times-Picayune describes as a “hastily called noon press conference” Friday. “We lose a quality person, teammate and contributor to the program. However, with that being said, we have a standard that our players are held to, and when that stand is not met, there are consequences.”
Mathieu’s dismissal and release from scholarship at LSU comes at a time when he was preparing to enter his third year with the Tigers, playing what many have speculated would have been a final season at LSU before establishing himself as to one of the top defensive prospects available to professional teams in the 2013 NFL Draft.
Instead, Honey Badger finds himself confronted with the daunting task of finding a new program at which to showcase his talents moving forward.
Options, as The Times-Picayune suggests, are “limited” at best, with Mathieu destined either to sit out the 2012 season if transferring to another FBS program or forced to step down to an FCS school / lower division program in order to play immediately once again this fall.
Rumors swirling around Mathieu suggest the former LSU standout wants out of Baton Rouge and is considering Jackson State, Prarie View A&M or McNeese State.
Former teammate at LSU, Josh Jasper, announced late Friday afternoon that Mathieu was likely headed to the latter of the three choices, a contention seemingly backed up by a photo published Saturday by SBNation.com showing Mathieu allegedly interacting with members of the Cowboys’ football team at McNeese State’s fieldhouse.
Should Mathieu indeed end up at McNeese State, he would join another former-fallen SEC defensive standout, Janzen Jackson, who transferred to Lake Charles from the University of Tennessee in 2011.
Meanwhile, back in Baton Rouge, Miles and his coaching staff now find themselves faced with the extremely difficult challenge of trying to replace Mathieu in the Tigers’ defensive backfield.
Tharold Simon, Eric Reid, Jalen Collins and true freshman Jalen Mills appear the most likely to be tasked with the job of trying to replace the 133 tackles, four interceptions, 11 forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries Mathieu’s manufactured in his first two seasons with LSU.
All are, however, lacking a significant amount of experience and the definitive leadership and energy that Mathieu brought to more than one game in his time in Baton Rouge.
Then there is the issue of how the Tigers will replace the productivity Mathieu brought on special teams last year, where he averaged 15.6 yards on 27 punt returns, two of which went for scores.
Suggests the Washington Times, receiver Odell Beckham seems a likely replacement, with Beckham previously have returned both kickoffs and punts for the Tigers.