Sunday, August 12, 2012
LSU takes 'team ownership' after Mathieu
By David Helman
This LSU team's reaction to the sudden dismissal of Tyrann Mathieu is equatable to ripping off a Band-Aid.
Barkevious Mingo (49) said LSU won't lose any swagger because of Tyrann Mathieu's dismissal.
Early Saturday afternoon, about 24 hours after the Tigers' star cornerback was booted off the LSU roster, members of the team met with the media for the first time. But more telling than their disappointment was their acceptance and resolve in the face of the situation.
"We were all sad for him because we love him like a brother," said defensive end Barkevious Mingo. "But it's just one of those things that has to happen."
Mingo is a member of Les Miles' 22-man unity council, a contingent of leaders made up from every part of the Tigers' roster. The head coach's message for his leaders and for his team is the same one he delivered to reporters Friday afternoon -- they must push forward.
"There were some emotional feelings in this building, but I think they understand that they've got to go on," Miles said. "The easiest place, where the understanding of what transpired was here, because they're informed -- they got it."
Of course, there's plenty to be said about how best to replace the Honey Badger's production on the field. Miles was asked incessant questions Saturday about how best to replace Mathieu at both the cornerback and nickelback positions. But that doesn't account for the energy the undersized defensive back brought to the team. Mathieu's confidence, his all-out approach during games and his steady flow of trash talk helped contribute to his Honey Badger mystique just as much as his big plays.
On a team this experienced, though, Miles isn't worried about replicating that role in just one player. Instead, it will have to be the whole team that picks up the slack.
"We have a lot of quality people on this team. I think there's a lot of quality leaders, and I think there's an understanding of the things that need to take place and let's go," Miles said. "We're going to miss Ty, but I think we're going to be fine."
Fittingly, one of the three players to speak with the media, along with Mingo and offensive guard Josh Dworaczyk, was quarterback Zach Mettenberger. Although the Tigers' junior quarterback has yet to start a game for LSU, he might be the most notable and oft-discussed player on the roster in the wake of Mathieu's departure.
"We've got to handle this adversity, because this team is not a bad team even though we lost one of our best players," Mettenberger said. "We're going to go out there, we're going to have the same goals and we're going to look to achieve all of them."
Mettenberger can relate to Mathieu more than a little bit in the wake of the news. Before he wound up in Baton Rouge, Mettenberger was dismissed from Georgia's roster in 2010 for a sexual battery charge. He took the junior college route to Butler Community College before signing with the Tigers.
"It's going to be a hard couple of months for Tyrann -- I've been there," Mettenberger said. "But he's a very tough guy. He's going to get through it, and I think he's going to come out on top."
Miles is no stranger to these situations himself. As he detailed for reporters, the Tigers' head coach has dealt with a variety of these situations in his LSU tenure, from the dismissal of star quarterback Ryan Perrilloux to last summer's late night brawl. With that in mind, Miles said his team understands what will be necessary to successfully move on -- just like past players have.
"In this room there is a responsibility to the team, and I think our guys understand that. When you sit down in one of those chairs, there is a team ownership," Miles said.
As for the swag factor, Tiger fans need not worry -- this is LSU. When asked about the loss of Mathieu's swagger, Mingo laughed to himself.
"It's a non-entity. Swagger is always in this room," he said. "We'll see how it goes from there."