Even though he is arguably the most electrifying player in college football, All-American Tyrann Mathieu will not wear Purple and Gold in 2012.
Mathieu's two-year career at LSU came to a sudden and unexpected conclusion last Friday when head coach Les Miles announced the star cornerback was dismissed for violation of team policy.
"This is a very difficult day for our team," Miles said. "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 standard is not met, there are consequences."
Nicknamed the "Honey Badger", Mathieu was a huge contributor to the Tigers' national title run last season. He was named the 2011 SEC Defensive Player of the Year, and a Consensus All-American while earned the Chuck Bednarik Award and drawing attention from the media for his big playmaking ability, hard-nosed style of play, and confident demeanor. Mathieu already set a new school record with 11 forced fumbles despite playing only two seasons at the historic program. His dismissal came the season after he was the first defensive back invited to the Heisman Trophy Presentation since Charles Woodson in 1997.
Mathieu joins the growing list of high profile players to be kicked off his team this off-season. Auburn's former feature running back Michael Dyer was released from the Arkansas State football team after a firearm and illegal substance believed to be marijuana were discovered during a traffic stop before the highly publicized transfer could make his debut. Standout linebacker Tanner Brock was dismissed from TCU's football team after being arrested for drug distribution. Greg Reid will not be playing cornerback for Florida State this season after being charged with a misdemeanor for marijuana possession.
Miles has been in this situation more than once during his tenure at LSU. The Tigers' head coach suspended and dismissed his star quarterback Ryan Perrilloux in 2008 for not fulfilling his obligations as a student athlete. Last season's starting quarterback Jordan Jefferson missed the first part of the schedule due to a suspension that was handed down after he was involved a bar fight.
Mathieu ran into trouble in 2011 when he was suspended for LSU's matchup with Auburn due to a failed drug test. The recent undisclosed violation of team rules was the final strike for the fan favorite. Now he will have to decide where to continue his career.
Mathieu is considering transferring to an FCS program to avoid being sidelined for a season. He would most likely have to sit out a season to adhere to standard rules for transfers if he wanted to attend another FBS institution. McNeese State, Jackson State, and Prairie View A&M are believed to be the front runners in the Honey Badger Sweepstakes. He will have two years of eligibility remaining at whichever program he decides to transfer to.
Mathieu's character issues will hurt, but not demolish the interest that NFL teams have in him. Florida dismissed its star cornerback Janoris Jenkins for off-field issues last season. Jenkins transferred to North Alabama of the NCAA's Division II level and was still a second round pick despite the damage to his reputation. The Honey Badger's pure talent as a defender and returner should be enough to keep him on NFL team's draft boards if he sets his mind to repairing his image.
Randy Moss was forced to follow a similar path during his collegiate days. The superstar wide receiver's character was considered questionable after he was denied admission to Notre Dame and dismissed from Florida State. Moss rebuilt the prospect of an NFL career by transferring to Marshall, which was then a Division I-AA school, where he dominated on the field and stayed out of trouble off of it.
Mathieu's dismissal is even more glaring than Moss's due to the Honey Badger's already long list of accomplishments. The timing of the incident comes at a tough time as the Tigers are gearing up for a season that had very high expectations.
LSU's top ranked team will certainly not be as strong without Mathieu, but the Tigers are still going to be contenders. The inexperienced yet talented duo of Jalen Mills and Jalen Collins, both freshmen cornerbacks, are expected to take the majority of the reps created by Mathieu's departure.
LSU lost one of its top players, but the message in the locker room that no one person is bigger than the team could not have been made any stronger.
In the short term, a loss like this has to hurt the team, but the long term effects of this unfavorable incident could yield beneficial results.