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LSU Will Be Fine In 2012, But What About Tyrann Mathieu?

Tyrann Mathieu was dismissed from the LSU football program, so what does this mean for the Honey Badger in 2012?

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Let's just be clear on a few things here as we digest the news of Tyrann Mathieu being dismissed from the LSU football program for violating team rules:

1. It's always sad to see a young man squander an opportunity like Mathieu's at LSU, if that's indeed the case.

2. LSU football is going to be fine without him (not that it really matters right now).

3. Mathieu's future depends on whether or not this is a teachable moment for the guy nicknamed Honey Badger.

There is no question about how talented Mathieu is. We saw it on the field pretty much all of last season when he ran away with the SEC Defensive Player of the Year award and became a finalist for the Heisman Trophy. He covers well and his return skills are off the charts because of speed, strength and instincts.

Tyrann Mathieu is a football player, no question about it. He's athletic enough to do a lot of different things on the field, which will intrigue a many NFL scouts seven or eight months from now. But none of that is important at the moment.

What needs to be paid close attention to is not how LSU fares next season (though it will be, obviously), or how much NFL money Mathieu lost in all of this (that's important, too). What should be concerning is what this means for Mathieu over the course of a 2012 college football season that will be played without him.

If Mathieu is toiling in obscurity at some NAIA or Division II school this season, he won't be primetime television, nor will he strengthen the skills we saw in 2011. How's that going to affect him?

Here's a guy who seems to live for the spotlight. Just think back to all that smack talk on the football field last year, or check out his Twitter account if you think that's a reach. Mathieu loves to be seen, recognized and appreciated. He'll be none of those things now that he's not playing for LSU anymore.

That has to be a bit unsettling for a player of his potential with such a thirst for you to know he's the man.

I'm not knocking his confidence, swagger, or anything like that. Personally, I can appreciate a guy who makes it hard for his own fans to like him, and just as hard for them to hate him. That's why I'm a bit worried about Mathieu.

He's not going to have a bunch of haters, or fans this season. The change from last season to this one is going to be so dramatic for him, it'd make a non-smoker want to light up.

So it comes down to how much Mathieu is able to learn from all of this. Reports on his excessive failing of drug tests haven't been confirmed, but that's like consensus speculation at this point. When someone fails not one, not two, but THREE drug tests, it makes you wonder what it takes for that person to learn a lesson.

Is it getting kicked off a potential national championship squad and risking multi-million dollar earning potential? Or could it be a lot simpler than that? Maybe sitting around watching LSU compete for the SEC title he helped them win 2011, while playing for the Valdosta State's of the world could do the trick.

But what if the outcome in all of this doesn't have nearly as much sun shining over it? He's too young (20) to think that all of his talent will go down the drain just because of a tumultuous year, but as Mathieu is sure to know by now, it's a thin line between greatness and failure.

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