LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu’s highlight tape is turning into a full-length motion picture.
He stripped the ball away from West Virginia wide receiver Brad Starks, registering a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in Saturday’s game. He later made an interception and ran the ball back 16 yards to the Mountaineers 1, setting up a Tigers touchdown.
In the season opener against Oregon, he forced a fumble by Ducks punt returner Kenjon Barner, picked the ball up and ran into the end zone for LSU’s first touchdown of the season.
Mathieu also has three tackles for loss and a half a sack. Last season as a true freshmen, he had five forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, two interceptions, and 4.5 sacks.
Still all those big plays don’t completely do Mathieu justice, according to safety Brandon Taylor.
“He actually batted three balls in the air today and caught them and ran them all back for touchdowns in practice,” Taylor said Tuesday. “So we see it every day. You guys get to see it one day out of the week.”
Taylor said he could sense a big play might be in the offing after coach Les Miles accepted a holding penalty, allowing West Virginia to run a third-and-19 instead of declining it and leaving the Mountaineers with a fourth-and-6.
“We know when he does something like that we’ve got to step up to the challenge and make him look good,” Taylor said.
The last time LSU played Kentucky, in 2007, nobody had heard of Twitter. Now it’s hard to avoid it.
Taylor said that social network is being used to remind the Tigers that four years ago, the Tigers had just ascended to the No. 1 spot in The Associated Press poll, and the Wildcats pulled the upset, 43-37, in Lexington.
Taylor said this freshly minted No. 1 team is being forewarned in a way the 2007 team could not have been.
“A lot of past players who are on Twitter are telling people on Twitter about what happened to them in 2007,” Taylor said, “so don’t let it happen to us.”
Sometimes you can’t tell the players even with a program, especially when it comes to LSU kickers and punters.
When No. 38 goes onto the field for the Tigers, it’s probably punter Brad Wing. Or is it? It could be punter D.J. Howard. If No. 38 is kicking off, then it’s not Wing, so it must be Howard, who unlike Wing, also kicks off, right? Well, not necessarily because it could be James Hairston, who also kicks off. All three players wear No. 38.
“We like No. 38 more than other numbers,” Miles said, stating the obvious. “The guys who punt and kick around here either wear No. 30 or No. 38. The guy who goes out on the field gets to wear No. 38.
“So I think it’s a wonderful number, or they won’t necessarily know who’s wearing what number. The opponent not having number recognition of who’s punting or who’s kicking could be an advantage.”
One sure-fire way to identify Wing, other than getting him to speak and reveal his Australian accent, is by his left-footed punting. Howard and Hairston are right-footed.?
Experience trumps redshirt
Miles said true freshman defensive end Jermauria Rasco made his debut last week because game experience will be more valuable to him than redshirting would have been.
“We seem to think that he has a real ability to learn and understand football,” Miles said. “We think he is one of those guys that is physically advanced and very capable. We want to watch him play and grow in this year.
“We think there is a lot of football left in front of this team and Rasco. We’re looking forward to him developing this year. We felt like we were ready for him to start his career.”
Another highly touted freshman, offensive lineman La’El Collins, who seemed more likely to see action early on than Rasco, is still eligible for a redshirt. But, Miles said, that could still change.
“Right now we’re still looking at him as a guy who might still play a lot of football this season,” Miles said. “We’re not ready to determine anything like a redshirt yet.”