Tyrann Mathieu dismissal: What's next for LSU?
Reasons the Tigers should and shouln't panic with Honey Badger out
By: Rich McVey | 8/10/12, 2:00 PM EDT
LSU dismissed Heisman finalist Tyrann Mathieu on Friday for a violation of team policy.
Mathieu was LSU’s best defensive playmaker.
Starting with the 2010 bowl win over Texas A&M, Mathieu went on a remarkable seven-game stretch into 2011 in which he forced six fumbles, recovered four fumbles (returning two for touchdowns) and intercepted two passes. This was against teams like Oregon, West Virginia, Florida and Mississippi State. On a team with offensive deficiencies, his ball hawking and game-changing ability was invaluable.
Mathieu was a special teams demon.
His 62-yard punt return for a touchdown with 5:48 left in the first half against Georgia in the SEC Championship Game put LSU on the scoreboard and overshadowed a first half of inept offense. His 92-yard highlight reel touchdown against Arkansas a week earlier also made up for a slow start for the LSU offense, tying the game at 14 late in the first half and opening the floodgates to a 41-17 win. His 15.6 yards per punt return ranked fourth nationally.
LSU has two games to prep its pass defense.
The Tigers won’t face Arkansas’ Tyler Wilson until the last week of the regular season and won’t see Georgia’s Aaron Murray unless it's a rematch in Atlanta. That said, LSU will see an elite quarterback in the second week of the season. Washington’s Keith Price passed for 3,063 yards and 33 touchdowns last season and was second only to Andrew Luck in the Pac-12 last season in pass efficiency.
Reasons LSU shouldn’t panic.
Mathieu wasn’t the most indispensable player on the defense.
According to Athlon’s own estimations, Mathieu was the 19th-ranked player in the SEC, the seventh-ranked player for LSU and the fifth-ranked player on the LSU defense. Mathiue’s playmaking aside, safety Eric Reid and corner Tharold Simon could make cases to be more sound defensive backs. Mathieu was a Heisman finalist largely on his performance in LSU’s biggest games. In a five-game stretch from Oct. 15-Nov. 19, Mathieu was more or less a non-factor. He contributed no turnovers during that span, which included his suspension against Auburn.
Teams gambled with Mathieu ... and won.
Alabama’s A.J. McCarron challenged Mathieu’s side of the field in the BCS championship game with great success. McCarron passed for 234 yards against the Tigers to lead Alabama to a national title in the rematch. If there was a blueprint to beat the LSU defense, McCarron and Alabama may have exposed it.
With Zach Mettenberger, the margin for error might be smaller.
The spotlight was on Mathieu’s game-changing ability last season because LSU needed it so desperately with Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee at quarterback. Zach Mettenberger could stabilize the LSU offense, which already has a standout offensive line and and impressive group of running backs. In short, LSU may not have many games like it did against Georgia, in which Mathieu’s punt return for a touchdown bailed out a first-down free first half.
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