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Senior College Football Columnist

Even when not at media day, LSU's Heisman finalist Mathieu all anyone talks about

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With Mathieu not at media day, Dodd spends time around new LSU QB, Zach Mettenberger. (US Presswire)  
With Mathieu not at media day, Dodd spends time around new LSU QB, Zach Mettenberger. (US Presswire)  

HOOVER, Ala. -- The transfer quarterback with all of 11 career passes was here Wednesday at SEC media days.

The Heisman finalist was not.

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The player who pled guilty to two misdemeanor counts of sexual battery was here.

The national Defensive Player of the Year stayed home.

We're talking LSU teammates, Les Miles' interview choices and maybe a look into the program's future. Whatever symbolic message Miles was trying to send -- to his players, media and fans -- was probably lost in translation. The player we all wanted to see, Tyrann Mathieu -- the Honey Badger himself -- was conspicuously left back in Baton Rouge. The quarterback with a rap sheet -- Zach Mettenberger -- attended his first media days before starting his first game.

"We bring players that have leadership ability," Miles said ominously.

And you thought these gabfests were about the media? Quick reminder of the unwritten ground rules: You never know what you're going to get. Coaches usually pick the path of least resistance in opening a window to their program. The players can talk but the less actually said, the better.

For whatever reason, South Carolina's Steve Spurrier didn't bring budding superstars Jadaveon Clowney and Marcus Lattimore this week. Nick Saban isn't bringing national championship quarterback AJ McCarron on Thursday. (More about that below.)

But on Wednesday, Mettenberger and his legal baggage were apparently deemed by Miles the safer choice than Mathieu. That's suggesting a lot of things about a lot of people. Mettenberger has played in two games since high school. He was kicked out of Georgia following an incident in a bar when he allegedly grabbed the breasts and buttocks of a woman in 2009. The quarterback pleaded to the misdemeanor charges, went to junior college for a year and resurfaced at LSU where, he said Wednesday "I want a couple of rings."

"It's crazy [being known] as a guy who hasn't played a significant game in the SEC," Mettenberger said.

It's crazier being picked by his coach to face 1,100 media here over an All-American corner who finished fifth in the Heisman balloting.

"I don't want him to be media-ed," Miles said of his faux-hawked corner, inventing a new verb along the way. "He can be the Honey Badger on the field. He doesn't need to be the Honey Badger here."

Among other things, Mathieu is known as a serial tweeter. That doesn't make him different than a lot of us, except it seems like we're watching him grow up in public. We know the kid has had a rough life. His feed -- both poignant and street, brilliant and toxic -- reflects it.

Some samples: I never bite my tongue ... it's called freedom of speech!

revenge is best served like steak: well done!!

World: this is honesty moment, I had to ball my way to a fortune because I seriously had no other route!

I know y'all praying on my downfall

Got a A on my math test, GOD IS WITH ME

"I heard he says some pretty bold things but I think he can back it up." said teammate Eric Reid, who was also here along with receiver Odell Beckham Jr.

Mathieu chose to back up his views recently in a purported twitter war with McCarron. It was his/their TMZ moment, two young knuckleheads typing out their bravado on the electronic street corner.

try throwing a corner route or a cross country on me this year!!! I'll be waiting!! Mathieu tweeted to no one in particular last month.

McCarron then shot back: U can talk ab[out] stopping something.. But actions speak louder than words. Remember that. #neworleans #14

Mathieu: @10AJMcCarron you have 1 [national championship], THE school has 14! You play your part well thanks to great coaching! but anyways we'll talk nov 3rd!

Wow, anyone for a re-rematch?

"No game," Miles said, "is won on a Twitter page."

Yeah, but LSU-Alabama III is only 4½ months away. Perhaps you can wear down your opponent in the fourth quarter with that type of strategy.

Mettenberger at one time did some bad things. Banished to Butler County Community College in Kansas he remembers the foul smells produced by an oil derrick on his way to class.

"Also, the practice field is right next to a cow pasture," Mettenberger said. "It's a daily reminder."

Meanwhile, Mathieu apparently is viewed as a bad interview risk, which is strange. Honey Badger did just fine in New York at December's Heisman ceremony. Mathieu was a finalist despite -- and media there barely touched on -- the fact he was suspended for a game for what was reportedly a positive drug test. The school said it was a violation of team rules.

"You've seen the plays he makes," Mettenberger gushed about his teammate. "He makes the plays of a 6-10, 300-pound guy."

Someday, soon, we'll be able to ask him about them. Just not on Wednesday.

#strange


Anyone in need of a credential from all the BCS title games? Dennis Dodd has them. In three decades in the business, he's covered everything from the Olympics to Stanley Cup to conference realignment. Just get him on campus in a press box in the fall. His heart lies with college football.
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