LSU’s defense lost the Honey Badger. Tyrann Mathieu, a 2011 All-American and Heisman finalist, probably should have given more of a shit. The loss feels earth-shattering. Some are reevaluating projections. Others are placing the pressure on LSU’s offense, but we may be overstating the impact.
The important thing to remember about LSU’s No. 2 overall yards per play defense last season was that it relied on a number of underclassmen. Projecting forward to 2012, the unit may be even better despite losing Mathieu and two NFL first-rounders.
The Tigers’ defensive line should be amazing next year. Both Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo were All-SEC caliber ends last season. This year, as juniors, they will be All-American candidates. LSU pairs them with tremendous experience and athleticism at defensive tackle. Anthony “the Freak” Johnson could step right in to replace Brockers this season. This will take pressure off the secondary, and the secondary should still be great.
Eric Reid is another sophomore star entering his junior year. The All-SEC safety is excellent in pass coverage, makes as many routine plays as Mathieu and is a probable first-round draft pick in 2013. Tharold Simon, 6’4″ and excellent in coverage, was going to cover top opposing receivers anyway. Mathieu’s presumed replacement, Jalen Collins is 6’2″ and a former hurdler, who may be the team’s best athlete.
Mathieu’s departure may hurt, but it is not because he is leaving a liability. He did not field a position, so much as he was deployed aggressively to create havoc. LSU will miss his ability to punctuate the equilibrium with a big play, but they should be so quick, talented and relentless that it won’t matter.
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