With his football future still uncertain, Tyrann Mathieu took one more step toward normalcy Tuesday as he re-enrolled in classes at LSU.
After his dismissal Aug. 10 for reportedly failing multiple drug tests, Mathieu completed treatment at the Right Step recovery program in Houston. As was reported by several media outlets Monday, Mathieu returned to Baton Rouge on Tuesday to resume taking classes.
“I’m finished with that treatment phase and it went well,” Mathieu told the LSU Daily Reveille. “A lot of issues that I was dealing with, I felt like I got those things handled.”
LSU coach Les Miles opted not to discuss the Honey Badger’s plans for football, but applauded Mathieu’s choice to get his academics in order.
“I believe that he has really made some difficult decisions for himself that will better him as he goes forward,” Miles said. “We certainly wish him the very best.”
Current LSU football players ran into Mathieu on campus, and safety Eric Reid said his conversation with the former Heisman Trophy finalist never was about football.
“It’s a very positive step in his life,” Reid said. “I know he wants to be back on the field, but he just has to be patient and that day will come. … He’s one of us. He’s our brother. He’s still a part of this team as far as I’m concerned.”
Odell Beckham, Jr., who replaced Mathieu as punt returner, said he didn’t see his former teammate Tuesday but has exchanged texts with him almost daily.
“It was a decision that he and his family had to make, and I think he made the right one,” Beckham said. “He’s still the same person, just getting his head on right.”
Live tiger shows up at UW
Seattle Times reporter Bob Condotta blogged about an unusual visitor Washington coach Steve Sarkisian arranged to visit Tuesday’s practice — a live tiger.
Condotta said the ploy was used to give the Huskies a little sense of what they face this weekend playing at LSU.
Mike the Tiger is usually stationed next to the opponent’s locker room at Tiger Stadium, causing players to have to walk past him on their way to the field. The Huskies had the same experience Tuesday, as the first the thing they saw when they turned the corner after entering the fence was the tiger.
“I was like ‘Oh, a Tiger? Why do we have a Tiger here,’ ’’ said redshirt freshman linebacker Travis Feeney. “It was kind of scary at first.’’
Feeney said he quickly got the point of the stunt.
“Coach wants us to get used to it, so when we play them and come out of the locker room we already know that it’s there and there is no distraction,’’ Feeney said.
Sarkisian did not meet the media on Tuesday, so there was no chance to get a comment from him.
The tiger is a 16-month-old Bengal, weighing 300 pounds. She is from the Walk on the Wild Side animal preserve in Canby, Ore., and regularly makes appearances at things like fairs. Steve Higgs, the tiger’s handler, said he thought it was a joke when a call came a few months ago wondering if they had a tiger that could come to a football practice.
“I was quite confused about what it was all about,’’ he said. “Then I realized the game was at LSU.’’
Though a lot of positives can be taken from LSU’s 41-14 victory against North Texas, one unit that found a negative spotlight was the offensive line.
The Tigers did rush for 316 yards, but Zach Mettenberger was pressured throughout the contest and was sacked twice. A hard hit by North Texas cornerback Hilbert Jackson in the first quarter knocked Mettenberger out for a series.
Miles said the offensive line has plenty of room to improve.
“We made a couple of first- game mistakes in our protections, and how we handled blitz,” Miles said. “It was spread through several different positions so the responsibilities were shared.”
Jones still waiting
Miles is still waiting for a decision on the appeal of linebacker Tahj Jones, whose eligibility has been questioned as a result of unspecified academic issues.
“I don’t know what work’s really being done there to be honest with you,” Miles said. “I know that we’ve done the things we’ve needed to do as an athletic department, and I don’t know what other steps there are. I hope there are other steps to take.”
Miles said Luke Muncie will likely start in Jones’ place and that a platoon of freshman linebackers could also help fill the void.
With most of the attention focused on LSU’s most recent dominant rushing duo of Alfred Blue and Kenny Hilliard, now nicknamed Shake and Bake, a pair of shakers and bakers were left on the bench against North Texas.
Missing were Spencer Ware, who ran for 707 yards and eight TDs in 2012 but has been sidelined with an injury through most of fall camp, and freshman Jeremy Hill, who received a lot of praise from Miles throughout the offseason.
“I would have liked to get both of those guys into the game,” Miles said. “I think Ware will be fine this week. I think he is getting over the final pieces of an injury. The opportunity to get Jeremy Hill into the game is something we look forward to doing.”
Punters from Down Under
When one Australian punter goes down, Miles has the luxury of sending out another.
With Brad Wing sidelined with a hamstring strain, Jamie Keehn made his first start in Tiger Stadium on Saturday, averaging 41 yards per punt with a long of 51.
Though Miles praised the first-year punters’ debut, it didn’t happen without its share of chaos. On his first punt attempt, Keehn’s couldn’t handle a high snap from first-year. But Keehn’s channeled his experience in Aussie rules football and got the punt off without fault.
“As it went through his hands, I personally was having a heart attack,” Miles said. “Whereas Jamie Keehn said ‘a ball on the ground, how fortunate for me.’ ”
Miles said Wing will likely return to the field against Washington.