ithin a few hours Friday, the dynamic of the Southland Conference football race may have changed dramatically.
“Honey Badger” could really muddy the waters.
At noon Friday, LSU coach Les Miles announced that Tyrann “Honey Badger” Mathieu, possibly the nation’s best defensive back who was a Heisman finalist last year, had been dismissed from the team. Shortly after that, Mathieu made a call to McNeese State coach Matt Viator. By Friday evening, he was in Lake Charles meeting for an hour and a half with Viator. Mathieu then returned to his home of New Orleans.
No further details were disclosed.
Mathieu can transfer to an NCAA FCS school and play immediately. He is expected to transfer to an FCS institution, play for season, then enter the NFL draft.
Because of his athletic and big-play ability and despite baggage, many FCS coaches would consider him worth taking a chance on for a season.
McNeese State, the most successful institution in Southland Conference football history, is picked fourth in the preseason polls. The addition of the ‘Honey Badger’ could immediately zip the Cowboys to the top, a very serious challenger to preseason favorite Sam Houston State, which returns almost everyone from a championship team but faces a challenging road schedule.
Mathieu is a great is one of the best defensive backs in college football but his ability to affect a game goes well beyond that. He was made a major difference in LSU defeating Alabama in the teams’ first meeting last year.
He has incredible instincts and ball-stripping ability and being able to get YAT (Yardage After Turnover).
He’s most dangerous on special teams as a “hold your breath” punt returner.
If he transfers to McNeese, as speculated, he could make the difference in two wins a year, which could be the difference in making the playoffs.
Southland Conference teams better put in some extra detail work on special teams.
“Don’t forget about McNeese State,” University of Central Arkansas coach Clint Conque said as he analyzed the preseason rankings.
If the Cowboys add the ‘Honey Badger’ to their mix, that Red Beans and Rice Bowl between McNeese State and UCA will gain an extra kick of spice.
Sports columnist David McCollum can be reached at 505-1235 or firstname.lastname@example.org