Barely one week after being voted as the No. 1 team in the nation to open the 2012 season, LSU has lost its best player, announcing today that All-American cornerback and 2011 Heisman Trophy finalist Tyrann Mathieu has been kicked off the team for an undisclosed violation of team rules. His immediate future is uncertain.
Citing a "source close to Mathieu," the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported that Mathieu was dismissed for failing a drug test, the same offense that reportedly cost him playing time last year.
"Tyrann Mathieu is no longer on our team. He violated team policies," head coach Les Miles said at a press conference. "He gave us a lot of examples that we can learn from and I think that he's a quality, quality guy who had a behavior issue and that's it." Athletic director Joe Alleva said Mathieu would be allowed to stay at LSU as a student, provided he pay tuition, but conceded, "He's not going to stay in school."
On his Twitter feed, Mathieu wrote, "The realist hearts have been through the most pain!! I'm out!!"
Last October, the "Honey Badger" was suspended for one game against Auburn, allegedly following a failed drug test. For the season, he finished as the leading tackler for the No. 2 defense in the nation in both yards and points allowed, including 7.5 tackles for loss, and forced more takeaways — two interceptions, six fumbles — than anyone else on a team that finished second in the nation in turnover margin. He was also fourth nationally in punt return yards, and led the nation with four non-offensive touchdowns. He finished fifth in Heisman voting, was awarded the Bednarik Trophy as the best defensive player in the nation and was a unanimous All-American.
As a true freshman in 2010, Mathieu recorded 57 tackles, 8.5 of them for loss, and generated seven turnovers (five forced fumbles, two interceptions) despite starting just one game. Multiple outlets tabbed him as a Freshman All-American, and he closed the season by being voted Most Valuable Player in the Cotton Bowl.
It is not clear if Mathieu remains eligible under NCAA rules. If so, he could play this season by transferring to a school on the FCS or Division II level; if he catches on at another FBS school, he would be forced to sit out the 2012 season under standard NCAA transfer rules, but could play in 2013 with two years of eligibility remaining. Regardless of his standing with the NCAA, though, he will be eligible for the 2013 NFL Draft next April, where he has been widely projected as a first or second-round pick.