Miles declined to state the precise reason for the abrupt release of the popular "Honey Badger," only to characterize his former star player as having broken team policy. It is important to note that there was never any mention of Mathieu having committed an illegal act during Miles' announcement but the reigning Bednarik Award winner and SEC Defensive Player of the Year was suspended one game last season for reportedly testing positive for synthetic marijuana. LSU never confirmed this report, though Mathieu, along with running back Spencer Ware and backup cornerback Tharold Simon, was held out against Auburn.
Speculation that Mathieu may have failed additional test(s) was rampant immediately after Miles' press conference, as the head coach characterized his former star as a "quality guy who had a behavior problem" and that the reason for his release from the program was Mathieu's apparent lack of compliance in a "fundamental behavior."
Miles, himself, speculated what Mathieu's next step might be. He felt that it likely that Mathieu would look to play immediately, which would require his transferring to a lower level school, or as Miles put it, "a step down." Other than in extreme situations like the crisis at Penn State, players who haven't yet graduated are not allowed to play immediately if transferring from one FBS school to another. Colleague Bruce Feldman tweeted in the minutes after Miles' press conference that if Mathieu failed a third drug test while at LSU (as some are reporting), he will not be able to play this year at another NCAA university.
Mathieu could follow the steps of another former SEC star cornerback, Janoris Jenkins, who was released from his scholarship with the Florida Gators after repeated run-ins with local authorities and failed drug tests. Jenkins, at the time considered a shoo-in first round talent, ultimately signed with North Alabama. Jenkins has impressed thus far in training camp after being a second round pick of the St. Louis Rams.
Though smaller than NFL scouts would prefer, the 5-09, 176 pound Mathieu plays with a unique brand of instincts, toughness and physicality that has led to comparisons to anyone from Pittsburgh Steeler star Troy Polamalu to Minnesota Vikings' cornerback Antoine Winfield. Mathieu, who lined up all over the field for the Tigers, is fearless and attacks the ball like few defensive backs in recent memory. Though he has two more years of eligibility remaining, he left LSU with a school record 11 forced fumbles, which is seventh in NCAA history. If one were to have voted on the Heisman Trophy last season based strictly on players making big plays in big games, the Honey Badger was as deserving of the award as any defensive/special teams' player is ever likely to be. Despite this fact, his lack of size already limited the number of scouts that might give him a first round grade. The off-field issues could be catastrophic to his draft stock. Don't think so? Oregon enjoyed an All-American cornerback and returner in Cliff Harris a year ago who, due to size and character concerns, saw his stock drop from a potential top 50 selection to falling out of the 2012 draft entirely. Frankly put, Mathieu was a polarizing player in scouts' eyes before Friday's announcement; he is listed at No. 19 overall in Dane Brugler's very early 2013 mock draft but isn't among the top 32 picks in mine.
Regardless of where Mathieu may or may not play college football in 2012, he will technically be eligible for early admission into the 2013 NFL draft due to the fact that he will be three years removed from his high school graduating class.
Here is the full release from LSU regarding Mathieu's dismissal:
Tyrann Mathieu has been dismissed from the LSU football team for violation of team policy, head coach Les Miles announced on Friday.
“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.
“It's hard because we all love Tyrann. We will do what we can as coaches, teammates, and friends to get him on a path where he can have success. We are going to miss him.”
Mathieu, a finalist for the Heisman Trophy and the nation's top defensive player a year ago, played in 26 games for the Tigers during his two years, racking up 133 total tackles, 16.0 tackles for loss and four interceptions. He also forced 11 fumbles, which ranks first in school history and seventh in NCAA history, to go with eight fumble recoveries.
Mathieu scored four touchdowns for the Tigers, two on punt returns and two on fumble returns.