Tyrann Mathieu had it all and then he pissed it away, literally.
After breaking team rules, LSU's "Honey Badger" was dismissed from the team, and the hopes of winning a Heisman Trophy, winning a national championship and becoming a college football legend were all flushed down the toilet. No pun intended that time.
In the process, he might have doomed LSU's chances of winning a national championship in 2012. Look, a team doesn't revolve around one player, but perhaps no other player meant more to his team than Mathieu did to LSU.
The forced fumbles, the electrifying punt returns, the interceptions, the blitzes off the edge and the swagger that he brought to LSU's defense became the aura of the club. He was LSU's chip on the Tigers shoulder.
When the Tigers found themselves down against Oregon, Arkansas and Georgia, it was Mathieu that made the game-changing touchdowns. But surprisingly Mathieu's departure was somewhat brushed under the rug as if it wasn't that big of a deal by many LSU fans. Really? To those who believe such a thing, are you looking at this properly, sensibly and intelligently?
Or are you just undermining the impact of this blow by saying LSU has plenty of talent and will be just fine while you look from a distance? Look deeper, my friends.
This is a huge blow for a number of reasons. The first is you can't replace a playmaker of Mathieu's stature. It simply can't be done. And though the Tigers will miss his game-changing plays, the loss is enormous in terms of defensive schemes.
LSU's most effective defense is when they run the 4-2-5, where Mathieu comes off the edge with blitzes, forces fumbles and makes game-altering plays. Who's going to fill that role?
Even more so, with the loss of Mathieu, the Tigers will have to play three (maybe four) inexperienced defensive backs. Rather than having to replace just Mo Claiborne and Brandon Taylor, LSU will have to replace Mathieu and possibly Craig Loston, should the injury rumors hold true (h/t The Advocate).
And for those overlooking the magnitude of Mathieu transferring because of Jalen Collins' potential, well, Collins was supposed to receive a significant amount of playing time before Mathieu broke team rules anyways. But hey, LSU will be OK because of its talent, right?
Time will tell how good these freshmen will be, but let's not forget that there's no longer a Ron Brooks waiting in the wings to play. Instead, Collins and true freshmen Dwayne Thomas and Jalen Mills will most likely be expected to pick up the slack. Not the best of timing for the true freshmen considering 2012 could be the year of the quarterback in the SEC. Nervous yet?
Ah, but then when all other arguments fail, credit the defensive coordinator and put your faith in him. "You know, John Chavis is a great defensive coordinator. He'll figure this out," they'll say.
He's a great coach no doubt, but will he lose his creativity on defense without Mathieu? Will the defense become stagnant without Mathieu roaming around the secondary? Other than Mathieu's packages, Chavis' schemes are relatively basic.
And this is just defense. What about special teams? Now, opposing teams can punt to Odell Beckham or whoever will return kicks for the Tigers with less caution. No more special game plans for that.
The bottom line is you can't replace a football player of this nature without it hurting the team in some sort of way. Having said that, this isn't the end of the world. LSU is very much still in the national championship race without its star.
But saying Mathieu's departure isn't that big of a deal because of the unproven talent behind him is just as senseless as Mathieu's mistake to get kicked off the team in the first place.