LSU Football: 5 Tigers Who Need to Step Up After the Dismissal of Tyrann Mathieu

Sean MerrimanCorrespondent IAugust 12, 2012

LSU Football: 5 Tigers Who Need to Step Up After the Dismissal of Tyrann Mathieu

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    Less than 24 hours after the Los Angeles Lakers pulled off a mega trade for Dwight Howard, the college football world got rocked with huge news as well.

    LSU dismissed 2011 Heisman Trophy finalist Tyrann Mathieu for violating school and team rules. 

    This is a huge loss for the preseason No. 1-ranked Tigers, who already face the challenge of replacing Morris Claiborne, Ron Brooks and Brandon Taylor, all of whom were selected in April's NFL draft.

    So now that Mathieu is gone, who will be looked at to fill the void left by the Honey Badger?

    Let's break down five Tigers who need to step up after the dismissal of Tyrann Mathieu.

    Bleacher Report style! 

Tharold Simon

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    Tharold Simon was stuck behind Morris Claiborne, Tyrann Mathieu and Ron Brooks in this LSU defensive backfield last season. But despite not being a starter, Simon still saw the field in 2011 because he was simply too talented not to.

    When Claiborne and Brooks went on to the NFL, Simon was pegged as Mathieu's starting cornerback mate in this LSU defensive backfield. Now, with Mathieu dismissed from the program, there is no doubt that Simon is the top cornerback on this roster heading into the 2012 college football season.

    Standing at 6'3" and just under 200 pounds, Simon has exceptional size for the cornerback position. In addition to his size, he also has elite speed, which in return allows him to stick with the opposing team's top big-play wide receivers.

    Simon is going to have a lot of pressure on him now that Mathieu is gone. He is the only defensive back with any meaningful experience on this LSU roster, which means he will be looked upon to lead the younger defensive backs.

    Don't be surprised to see Simon flourish in this role and become an All-SEC performer when it's all said and done.

Jalen Collins

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    Redshirt freshman Jalen Collins made plenty of noise during LSU's spring, as he was deemed the team's most improved player throughout the 15 practices.

    Now, with the dismissal of Mathieu, LSU fans will get to see just how improved this kid really is, as he will likely step into Mathieu's starting role.

    Collins is much bigger than Mathieu, but he plays with the same competitive nature. He is extremely athletic, and with his size, he gives LSU another big cornerback in that defensive backfield.

    Neither Tyrann Mathieu nor Morris Claiborne were huge recruits before they arrived at LSU, but both of them made an impact once they were given the chance.

    Because of Mathieu's costly mistake, Collins could be the next star in this LSU defensive backfield.

Dwayne Thomas

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    This spot on the list would have been filled by redshirt freshman David Jenkins, but Jenkins chose to transfer this offseason after it become apparent that he would be in a reserve role behind starters Tyrann Mathieu and Tharold Simon.

    That has all changed now, but since Jenkins is no longer with the program, LSU head coach Les Miles will have to call on a true freshman to fill the void at cornerback.

    Welcome to the show, Dwayne Thomas.

    This 6'1", 170-pound prospect was a 4-star in-state recruit for the Tigers. He was heavily pursued by other top-tier programs such as Nebraska, Arizona and Pittsburgh, but ultimately chose to stay close to home.

    That decision should pay huge dividends, as Thomas will more than likely see the field this fall, and could even be a starter when it is all said and done.

    Thomas is a guy who has good size, speed and excels at jamming receivers at the line and getting up in press coverage. He has good closing speed and can come up and make a hit when called upon, which is something that Les Miles will be very pleased to see with his new freshman corner. 

Jalen Mills

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    When it comes to talent, Jalen Mills has plenty of it.

    After starring for DeSoto High School (TX), this kid has gone up against some of the top competition in the nation and has held his own. But at 6'0", 180 pounds, Mills needs to add some strength to his body before he can be ready to come in and play right away as a true freshman.

    Mills is raw at this point, but with Mathieu now out of the mix, he will get every opportunity to prove to his coaches that he can handle his own out on the field. 

    As it stands right now, Mills is listed on LSU's depth chart as a backup cornerback—because of so many transfers and Mathieu's dismissal at that position, he is a guy who LSU needs to step up and prove he can be ready.

Derrick Raymond

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    Derrick Raymond is another 3-star in-state prospect who will be looked at for potential early playing time after the dismissal of Tyrann Mathieu.

    Raymond's top strength is his speed, and to say that this kid is fast is the understatement of the year.

    Raymond has blazing speed and could very well be the fastest player on this LSU roster. He won the Louisiana Class 4-A state title in the 100- and 200-meter dash last season at East Jefferson High School in New Orleans.

    LSU coaches have praised Raymond for his recovery speed and ability to stay with LSU's top wideouts. If he can continue to grow and develop a feel for the college game, then this kid has the chance to be special in the future.

    With Mathieu gone, the future very well could be now for Raymond.