For two years, Tyrann Mathieu played the game of college football at a kamikaze speed and intensity that recalled a peewee football player instructed to “get the ball” and nothing more. Mathieu’s ability to reek havoc on opponents – whether through his precocious ability to force fumbles or return punts – propelled LSU to a 13-0 regular season record last season and earned him a spot as a Heisman Trophy finalist.
News of Mathieu’s dismissal from LSU on Friday morning came with the same type of full steam, out of nowhere force that he himself had displayed on the field so often. LSU coach Les Miles announced Mathieu had violated team rules – read: Mathieu failed a third drug test – and thus would no longer play in Purple and Gold. Opposing fans cheered with glee while the mood was a bit more subdued, as you would imagine, from Tiger fans.
Mathieu’s departure leaves a massive hole for the Tigers – one I will examine in a moment – but Miles’s teams have performed superbly in the past when faced with adversity. In 2007, LSU won the BCS National Championship after starting QB Ryan Perrilloux’s dismissal before the season. Last season, Mathieu helped the team reach the BCS National Championship despite starting the season without suspended QB Jordan Jefferson.
Mathieu’s departure leaves the Tigers’ corner position lacking in both experience and depth – a surprising development for a team that has earned the nickname Cornerback U with back-to-back Jim Thorpe Award winners recognizing the nation’s top defensive back. Three of LSU’s top four cornerbacks from 2011 are gone, with only junior Tharold Simon remaining.
With this shortage in mind, I used Rivals.com to look at LSU’s cornerback recruits from 2008-2012 to highlight how the program arrived at its current predicament – i.e., needing to rely on freshman cornerbacks to make its second straight BCS National Championship Game appearance.
NOTE: All star and overall position rankings below are from Rivals.