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August 13, 2012

LSU Defense Post Honey Badger

Playmakers like the Honey Badger don't just grow on trees.  Before a single snap has taken place this season Tyrann "Honey Badger" Mathieu has disrupted college football.  Mathieu's dismissal has LSU scrambling to fill his position, school's like McNeese State dreaming of defensive dominance, and the AP preseason votes being recalled and recast.  How many individual players can boast that AP ballots for preseason rankings hinge on where they play?  There is no doubt, Tyrann Mathieu is an impact player.  But the fact is LSU will no longer have the services of the Honey Badger.  So, what does LSU's defense look like without the Honey Badger?

First, let's get some perspective.  As exciting as Tyrann Mathieu has been the last two years, he was just about to start only his third year at LSU.  In 2010 Mathieu had a spectacular Cotton Bowl but the top cornerbacks on the 2010 team were Patrick Peterson and Morris Claiborne.  Peterson was the impact player of 2010.  Peterson was the shutdown corner in college football in 2010 and as a punt returner, Peterson returned 26 punts for 418 yards and two touchdowns.  Peterson also set an LSU record with 932 kickoff return yards.  Claiborne was a bit of question mark at the beginning of 2010.  Remember, Claiborne was a converted wide receiver that had played quarterback at Fair Park High School only two years previously.  Everyone tested Claiborne in 2010 and that may have something to do with his stellar career and first round selection in the NFL draft.  My point is that as outstanding as Mathieu has been LSU had defensive backs before the Honey Badger and will continue to have great defensive backs step forward this year. 

Keeping that in mind, LSU's defense is way more than just great defensive backs.  Just starting his fourth year as LSU's defensive coordinator, John Chavis has established LSU as "Defense U" with the only other possible contender being SEC West rival Alabama.  The running for "Defense U" drops off significantly after LSU and Alabama. While still putting things into perspective, I should also mention that LSU is 75-18 in the last 7 years under the leadership of Les Miles.  75 wins in 7 years doesn't occur on the shoulders of one great impact player.

So with a little bit of perspective in mind, what are John "the Chief" Chavis and Les "the Mad Hatter" Miles going to do this season without Tyrann "the Honey Badger" Mathieu?  The rave reviews of Mathieu by Chavis and the look on Miles' face at having to announce Mathieu's dismissal tell us that the coaches are going to have to really go to work but this isn't their first rodeo.  It appears that LSU's defense may have more help from the offense this year.  Mettenberger promises to stretch the field with a long range passing game; LSU has 5 or 6 top notch running backs and the depth and; experience at offensive line should provide opportunities to pass and run.

When LSU is playing defense Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery will not be giving quarterbacks much time to figure out how to exploit a thinner defensive backfield.  Up until a couple of years ago the stars of LSU's defense was the defensive line.  The quality of LSU's defensive line hasn't changed.  LSU's D-line is still outstanding.  

The only possible question mark prior to the dismissal of Mathieu was the linebacker corp.  I think the linebackers are going to really shine this season.  Kevin Minter is a solid leader in the middle and may prove to be one of the truly great linebackers to play in Death Valley.  Lamin Barrow registered a sack in the scrimmage as an outside linebacker and I think he is a real candidate to take the "no holds barred"  beserker pass rush duties that Mathieu was famous for last year.  I think Barrow can produce sacks and turnovers.   

Miles mentioned that a linebacker that can cover might be the solution to the nickel package.  Interesting fact, according to Rivals.com 7 incoming freshmen defensive backs have been clocked a 4.4 or 4.5 seconds in 40-yards. Incoming linebackers Deion Jones, Kwon Alexander, and Lamar Louis are all 6' tall or taller, weigh at least 200lbs. and can run at least a 4.5 40.

In terms of replacing Mathieu at cornerback when not in the nickel, true freshman Jalen Mills has been getting a solid tryout and may split time with redshirt freshman Jalen Collins.  Both of these guys were already likely to see a lot of playing time prior to the Honey Badger's exit and the Jalens may have the opportunity that Morris Claiborne had in 2010 to prove that neither man is a weak link.  Speaking of the Morris Claiborne experience, LSU has just converted a fast "Mo Claiborne like" wide receiver to cornerback.  Keep an eye on Kavahra Holmes.  Holmes is 6'2" 180lbs and was clocked at 4.4seconds in the 40 by Rivals.com.  As a converted wide receiver, Holmes also has good hands and knows how to catch a ball.  The same thought pattern made Morris Claiborne into the NFL caliber shutdown corner that he is today.  Moving Holmes to the defensive side of the ball is not a bad idea.  We may have to wait for next year for his time to come but, don't be surprised if Holmes becomes one of the future great LSU cornerbacks.

LSU is going to miss the Honey Badger.  Tyrann Mathieu was the key to several LSU wins last year.  But rest assure, LSU is not a one player team.  Talent runs deep on the bayou.  The void left by Mathieu will be filled.  

I remember a commercial a few years ago where different people would proclaimed "I am Tiger Woods."  The message of that commercial was that there is greatness in each of us.  I am looking forward to seeing LSU Tiger defenders step up this year and proclaim "I am the Honey Badger."  It will be exciting to see who steps up this year and creates turnovers and that spark that were the mark of a truly outstanding football player.  I truly wish Mr. Mathieu the best and look forward to seeing him in the NFL.  I can forgive you for the selfish mistakes you have made that has put your LSU family in this difficult position and I wish you the very best. 

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

More than a thousand articles on the Honey Badger and this is the best. Thank you Bob!

Anonymous said...

Nice Touch Bob!!! As I was reviewing those articles that talk about the possibility of the honey badger sitting out this season and playing next, I thought about Cam Newton when it was found out his Dad asked for money for him to go to Auburn. Seems if a player is a big impact player with NFL potential the NCAA allows the implications of violations to be ignored for the good of getting a kid off the street and making millions he can give back to a team that plays in the NCAA. Maybe just maybe we might see a return of the Honey BDger next year. 1 if he is monitored 24 hrs a day , 2 bath salts were not banned by the NCAA on his 1st violation. If that is 1 of his drugs of choice. 3 his head coach says I will put my job on the line to help this kid Who knows might happen.

Globex said...

Nice one

rochelle niemez said...

Nice article bob..Great job!!!

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