Tyrann Mathieu woke up an LSU Tiger Friday morning. But if his ex-teammate is correct, he'll be going to sleep soon enough as a McNeese Cowboy.
Josh Jasper, LSU's star kicker from 2007-10, tweeted Friday that Mathieu will be transferring to McNeese, an FCS school located in Lake Charles, Louisiana -- just a couple hours drive west of LSU's campus in Baton Rouge and Mathieu's hometown of New Orleans.
Attempts to confirm Mathieu's (TM7_Era) transfer to McNeese were not immediately returned by the university or sources close to Mathieu, himself. It remains to be seen how reliable Jasper, who graduated from LSU in 2011 and was unable to make the Tampa Bay Buccaneers roster as as undrafted free agent kicker last year, will prove to be as a reporter. (Update: Other reports indicate Mathieu is also considering Jackson State & Prairie View A&M)
If his tweet is correct (a photo appeared to show him on the McNeese State campus Friday night), the move would make sense for both McNeese and Mathieu, however.
McNeese, coming off a 6-5 season, could see a huge leap in national interest with the addition of a player (and persona) like Mathieu. Also, this wouldn't be the first time McNeese has added a former disgraced LSU Tiger. The Cowboys signed Cecil Collins, a one-time standout running back at LSU and watched him help build buzz around their program as he was drafted with the first pick of the fifth round of the 1999 NFL draft by Jimmy Johnson and the Miami Dolphins.
Of course, Mathieu would be the big winner if Jasper's report is true as the news would likely mean that the 2011 Bednarik Award (nation's best defensive player) winner would be able to play this season. That has very much been in question since LSU head coach Les Miles' press conference announcing that Mathieu was no longer a member of his team.
Except under very rare circumstances, NCAA rules prevent FBS undergraduate players from transferring to other FBS schools and playing without sitting out a season. Players suspended from FBS programs, however, are often allowed to transfer and play immediately at lower-level schools, as was the case a year ago when former Florida Gators' star cornerback Janoris Jenkins transferred to North Alabama after being dismissed by new head coach Will Muschamp.
Regardless of whether Mathieu plays for McNeese or any other college football team in 2012, he will technically be eligible for early entry into the 2013 NFL draft as he will be three years removed from his high school graduating class.
The 2011 Heisman finalist is sure to be a hotly debated prospect for NFL teams.
NFLDraftScout.com rated Mathieu as the No. 4 cornerback and No. 39 overall prospect in the 2013 draft prior to Friday's news. The lofty ranking is warranted based on the Honey Badger's terrific first two seasons of action. Mathieu was voted the SEC's Defensive Player of the Year in 2011, over the likes of three of the conference's star defenders who wound up as top 10 picks in April's NFL draft (Morris Claiborne, Mark Barron, Stephon Gilmore). Mathieu's stock was never higher than when he returned punts for touchdowns to swing momentum back in LSU's favor against Arkansas (regular season finale) and Georgia (SEC Championship). NFLDraftScout.com has since spoken to several league sources who gave Mathieu a first round grade. Others, however, had him as low as the fourth round.
Those scouts ranking him highly argue that while undeniably small, Mathieu's playmaking ability and versatility make him an intriguing fit in today's evolving "hybrid" defenses. They cite the fact that the Honey Badger lined up in a variety of positions while at LSU -- nickel cornerback, safety and even outside linebacker on occasion. He's a proven playmaker at the highest collegiate level.
Critics argue Mathieu was surrounded by a great deal of talent at LSU and he was beaten (and at times even targeted) due to his willingness to gamble in pursuit of the big play. They caution that if Mathieu couldn't handle the expectations that came in college how can he be trusted to deal with the money and exposure (and all that comes with it) as an NFL player.
All of which makes Mathieu's decision where to play in 2012, his ability to do so at a level comparable to the first two brilliant seasons of his career, and -- most importantly -- the Honey Badger's willingness to abide by the rules among the most riveting stories this year for NFL talent evaluators.