October 22, 2011
Three players for the No. 1-ranked LSU football team — cornerbacks Tyrann Mathieu and Tharold Simon and running back Spencer Ware — have been suspended for violating team rules for Saturday’s game against No. 19 Auburn, a source familiar with the situation said Wednesday.
There was no word whether the suspensions will extend beyond this week’s contest. LSU has an open date next week before traveling to face No. 2 Alabama on Nov. 5.
LSU coach Les Miles spoke after Wednesday’s practice to a larger than normal crowd of media members at the football operations facility but declined to confirm the players’ suspensions.
“I certainly understand the interest surrounding what seems to be news,” Miles said. “The problem with that is this is an internal function of the team. I’m not reactionary to the needs of media external to this building.”
Miles said he is going through a process to determine what action needs to be taken.
“It’s something I review fully and I’m going to do it as I’ve always done it,” he said.
All three players are sophomores. Mathieu and Ware are starters, while Simon is a frequently used backup.
Mathieu has been one of the stars of LSU’s undefeated team, making a string of spectacular plays that have earned him serious early consideration for The Heisman Trophy.
Nicknamed the “Honey Badger,” the New Orleans native is LSU’s second-leading tackler with 42 stops. He also leads the team with four forced fumbles (he has a school-record nine for his career); three fumble recoveries; two interceptions; and one and one-half sacks.
Mathieu scored touchdowns on forced fumbles against Oregon and Kentucky and returned an interception to the West Virginia 1-yard line, setting up another touchdown.
Ware is LSU’s top running back, leading the team in yards rushing (512) and carries (128) and being tied for the team lead with six rushing touchdowns. Against Tennessee on Saturday, the Cincinnati native rushed for 84 yards and a touchdown and caught a touchdown pass.
Simon, a reserve from Eunice, has played in all seven games and started against Mississippi State. He is fourth on the team with 29 tackles, an interception and a team-best eight pass deflections.
Asked if he was disappointed in what has happened, Miles said: “I think the issues of society today are heaped full of temptations and distraction. Frankly, it doesn’t surprise me in any way what’s presented to our team.”
The suspensions are the latest off-the-field issues for an LSU team that has managed to get off to its second straight 7-0 start despite major distractions.
Senior quarterback Jordan Jefferson and linebacker Josh Johns were suspended for the first four games this season for their alleged roles in an Aug. 19 off-campus bar fight. Jefferson, who has been replaced as the starter by fellow senior Jarrett Lee, has been indicted on a misdemeanor charge of simple battery, while Johns has been cleared.
Starting wide receiver Russell Shepard missed the first three games this season because he violated NCAA protocol concerning an NCAA investigation.
Senior linebacker Ryan Baker was also suspended for LSU’s second game against Northwestern State for an unspecified team rules violation.
When asked if his team would be distracted, Miles indicated he thought his players would take the matter in stride.
“This football team might well understand what distraction is,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve seen a change. I think they understand what they need to do.”