I sat back and tried to absorb as much of the Tyrann Mathieu stuff as I could before forming a semi-permanent opinion. Still not sure I'm there yet, but here goes.
I hope for Mathieu's sake that this commitment to spend time with John Lucas is a legitimate cry for help for a nasty habit that – from all indications – he has had for a long time. I don't believe marijuana qualifies as an addiction so I won't go there, but it is certainly the wrong kind of gateway for a young man without a lot of money to latch onto when he is going to be a man with a lot of cash in the not so distant future.
If Mathieu wants to kick his habit to cleanse himself regardless of where his future takes him, then I wish the young man all the best and will root for him to get his life back on track. I have written before that he is one of the most genuine young men I've covered since I've been in this market. As I write this, he just tweeted ‘on a mission to gain back what I've lost!!!'
What I also hope is that this is a decision that at some level and at some point, he reached on his own accord. Not to say it's wrong for his adoptive parents to give their opinion and exert influence, but he's a 20-year-old now and the decisions he makes from here on out need to originate from his heart.
As for football, I have no doubt Mathieu will be back on the field again. I just don't believe it's in his best interest for that to be at LSU. The attention would be too much for him and would also become a huge distraction for the other Tigers who deserve a chance to take unfettered aim at another national championship opportunity.
I think however long this rehab or cleansing takes, he should prepare himself emotionally for the fact that he's done as a Tiger.
That said, he has time and motivation – hopefully there's more of that then ever – to prepare for the 2013 NFL Draft. He'll wind up somewhere and be in a spotlight, but unless it's New York, it won't be as glaring as it was and would be for him to be back on the field for LSU.
Now, if Mathieu's time with Lucas suddenly ends this week and he can come to an agreement with McNeese State or Nicholls State, I'm all for him getting back to football. It's where he belongs, and if he can steer clear of marijuana use, football can be the best therapy of all.
Regardless of how this all turns out, it was a thrill to watch Mathieu for two seasons.
Great player? Absolutely? Irreplaceable? Nope.
The only player who losing for any period of time that would dramatically redirect LSU's season in my opinion is Zach Mettenberger. The depth behind him is still a work in progress.
That's far from true in the Tigers' secondary, where like the defensive line and at running back, there's plenty of talent to plug in.
It won't be one guy stepping in to take Mathieu's spot for every role he filled. Instead LSU will rely on Jalen Collins and Jalen Mills at corner – and arguably will wind up with an upgrade in terms of pure coverage skills – a combination of those two, Ronald Martin and Micah Eugene as the extra DB in nickel, dime and 4-2-5 packages and Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry and Michael Ford on punt returns.
While none of that committee may be as big a playmaker as often as Mathieu, they all have big-play potential.
Another thing to keep in mind is that high-level athletes tend to up their performance when there's a perceived loss or void. Mix that with how talented the Tigers are on defense and in the secondary in particular, and I think they will compensate very well without Mathieu.
I had an AP vote the last several years and took the task very seriously. So I just wonder how closely the batch of voters who changed their vote because Mathieu was dismissed did their homework on LSU's talent level around him.
Yeah, Mathieu was as visible a player as there was in college football. But take him away and the Tigers are still – in my opinion – clearly the most talented and deepest team in the country. Add that to the motivation they'll take the field with a massive upgrade at quarterback, and I think it's still a no-brainer.
Granted, the AP poll doesn't factor into anything officially, but it does influence perspective and there are humans voting in other polls that may follow the AP's lead and incorrectly diminish the level of talent still on the Tigers' roster.
And the difference between this year and last is that there isn't a hang-your-hat game early in the schedule – while Alabama opens with Michigan and goes to Arkansas two weeks later and USC plays at Stanford in Week 2.
So LSU's chance to make a statement will sit dormant while the two teams the Tigers are jockeying for position with take aim at signature wins.
Of course, the best way to render the polls moot is to duplicate 2011 and win every game put in the way. It would be hard to argue with who was the best team in the country then.