LSU held its first scrimmage of preseason camp Saturday, which gave the Tigers a good opportunity to focus on something other than the sudden dismissal of All-America cornerback Tyrann Mathieu a day earlier.
“It let us move our thoughts toward actually getting ready to play than on the guy we lost,” defensive end Barkevious Mingo said. “It helped.”
Mingo was one of the team leaders to whom head coach Les Miles broke the news to first Friday morning.
“We just wanted to tell the guys in the room that he will be missed,” Mingo said of Mathieu, who was kicked off the team for violating team and university policy. “It’s a sad situation, but we must go on and lead this team.”
Miles said he called upon the team leaders to recognize that the team had to put the loss of Mathieu behind them just as they would if a teammate had been lost for the season due to injury.
“There were some emotional feelings in this building,” Miles said, “but I think that they understand that they’ve got to go on. There was nobody in the room that was happy, including me. There’s an understanding that the team has to go on and play a lot of good football teams. We don’t need open wounds when we go out to play. We need to heal and get right and let’s go play.”
In three more Saturdays, the Tigers will be taking the field for their season opener against North Texas on Sept. 1 in Tiger Stadium.
“We understand we lost a teammate and a great playmaker in Tyrann,” quarterback Zach Mettenberger said. “We’re going to miss him a lot. We’ve got to handle this adversity. It’s like having your brother kicked off the team. It’s tough to go through. I’ve been there.”
Mettenberger was kicked off the team at the University of Georgia for violating team rules two years ago.
“This is the adversity you’ve got to go through in life,” Mettenberger said. “It’s going to be a hard couple of months for Tyrann. I’ve been there, but he’s a very tough guy and I think he’s going to come out on top. He’ll learn from this and make great strides and be a better person.”
Mathieu’s former teammates are waiting to see where he winds up. He can’t play at another Football Bowl Subdivision school unless he sits out this season. He seems more interested in enrolling in a Football Championship Subdivision school.
McNeese State University confirmed Saturday that Mathieu had contacted coach Matt Viator on Friday and met with him after the school received permission from LSU. The school said the pair met for about 90 minutes and Mathieu returned to his hometown of New Orleans without telling the Cowboys what his plans were.
“I think he needs to find him a team and play however long he wants to and try and make the jump to the (NFL),” Mingo said.
“What I would like for him is what’s best for Tyrann,” Miles said. “I would like him to be in an environment that would be conducive to him developing, where he might look to get his degree, and playing football certainly is something that comes naturally to him and makes him happy. I’m certain he will search out those things.”
Miles said he was “passively involved” in granting permission to other schools interested in talking to Mathieu.
“I know what’s going,” Miles said, “but not in any direct way by nature of the fact that he is no longer on our team. I’ll follow it very closely, and if needed, maybe offer an opinion.”
While Mathieu looks for a new team to join, LSU looks for a new cornerback to take Mathieu’s starting position across from junior Tharold Simon.
Mingo called Mathieu “a magnificent player.”
“He will be missed, not only by the defense but by the whole team,” Mingo said. “Now, we have to see what the young players can do, who can come in and get the job done.”
Redshirt freshman Jalen Collins and true freshman Jalen Mills lead a group of four players who have never played before and are competing to succeed Mathieu.
“This team is not a bad team even though we lost one of our best players,” Mettenberger said. “We have the same goals and we’re looking to achieve each of them.”
Losing a teammate unexpectedly is nothing new for the players who were on the team last year when LSU had seven players, including Mathieu, unavailable at various times for various disciplinary reasons. The Tigers went on compile a 13-0 regular-season record, earn a No. 1 ranking for most of the season and win the Southeastern Conference championship before losing in the BCS title game.
“Last year was kind of the same ordeal,” Mingo said, “but this team rallied around and came out better because of it. We have to go at it like that.
“We’ve done it before. Last year was a prime example. This team knows how to replace talent. We’re deep with talent, and so we can easily do it.”
Copyright © 2011, Capital City Press LLC • 7290 Bluebonnet Blvd., Baton Rouge, LA 70810 • All Rights Reserved