On Friday, Les Miles made the surprise announcement that Heisman hopeful Tyrann Mathieu had been dismissed from the LSU football squad. Failed drug tests and synthetic marijuana were believed to be the cause.
On Saturday, the Tigers held their first fall scrimmage and tried to move forward without their ex-star teammate.
Defensive end Barkevious Mingo said: “It let us move our thoughts toward actually getting ready to play than on the guy we lost. It helped… It’s a sad situation, but we must go on and lead this team.”
Ah, but Mathieu isn’t completely out of the picture at LSU after all. Gone for this season? Yes. Definitely transferring to an FCS school like McNeese State to play right away? Not yet, according to ESPN.com’s Joe Schad who writes that his sources say Mathieu has expressed an interest in staying in school at LSU and then returning to Miles’ team in 2013:
“Mathieu has been described as ‘heartbroken’ and ‘grieving’ since his dismissal from the team.
Mathieu has told people close to him that he is interested in working on his maturity and character and also in seeking out any way to continue his education at LSU.
The possibility to declare for the NFL draft after this season also exists. But Mathieu has told people close to him that draft status is not a priority at this time. If he were to stay at LSU, paying his own way for at least one season is a possibility.”
To be clear, Mathieu’s options are transfer to another FBS school and sit out a year, transfer to an FCS school and play right away, or work out a deal with LSU and Miles in which the player stays in school and returns to the Tiger team next year… rather than jumping to the NFL as an early entrant in spring 2013.
For Miles, this could be a tougher decision than one might think. If the top administrative brass at LSU okays a stay on campus for Mathieu, the coach will have to decide whether or not keeping the kid near his football team would be a good thing or a bad thing.
Miles clearly likes Mathieu, saying nice things about him even as he announced his one-year suspension on Friday. He may feel that he and the LSU support group could best help Mathieu moving forward. Or he may look at it and realize that despite numerous warnings, he really never got through to the superb return man at all. At least not enough to keep him from doing whatever it was — and we all think we know what it was — that earned him his heave-ho. In other words, it might be best for the young man to suffer the consequences of his actions and then grow up elsewhere. (Knowing football coaches, that’s a slim possibility, but it’s a possibility nonetheless.)
As for his own team, keeping Mathieu in Baton Rouge might be a positive. Like an injured player, Mathieu could be around without actually being on the squad. The players — one would think — would be glad to see their old teammate around campus. But on the flip side of that coin, what if Mathieu fails to change his ways? Again? In that case, the coach would look foolish for giving him an umpteenth chance and the players would have to go through the emotions of losing Mathieu all over again.
If Mathieu wants to stay at LSU and return to Miles’ team next season, here’s betting that’s what will happen. But there are potential positives and negatives to that plan for both the player and LSU’s football team. No matter how dazzling a return man Mathieu might be.