RECRUITING UPDATE: Tyrann Mathieu
Mathieu could fill CB void on campus ASAP
With the departure of senior cornerback Chris Hawkins and with Jai Eugene and Patrick Peterson likely playing their last seasons in purple and gold in 2010, LSU knows it must bolster its depth in the defensive backfield with this year’s recruiting class.
That’s why the Tigers actively targeted and received a verbal commitment from St. Augustine cornerback Tyrann Mathieu.
Mathieu’s high school coach David Johnson said that LSU coaches have been very impressed with Mathieu’s aggressiveness on the field.
“When you see him being a 5′10″ guy, you’d think he’s really small until you get up close on him or until you see him on tape,” said Johnson. “That’s when you realize how physical he is. He’s not just a cover corner, he’s a real physical kid.”
That’s something that the 175-pound Mathieu takes great pride in.
“I look forward to playing against big receivers,” said Mathieu, firing an early warning shot to SEC receivers next fall. “In high school, I always played against the biggest receiver. The last thing they’re thinking is this little cornerback will get to them.”
“But I can put a hand on him early in the route and take them out of their route,” added Mathieu, who checks in at 175 pounds. “I love playing physical.”
Because of his smallish size, at least by SEC standards, Mathieu is aware of the importance technique is to his success. He has benefited from the tutelage of Purple Knights defensive coordinator Del Lee, who played at McNeese State and had a cup of coffee with the New York Jets in 1999.
“All of the drills I’ve practiced are drills that they run in the NFL and college,” said Mathieu, who had an interception return for a touchdown in the Purple Knights’ 27-26 playoff loss to West Monroe on Nov. 20. “I’ve been able to work with (Lee) and have learned a lot. He has prepped me well.
“The drills have helped me with my closing speed, and I’m hoping to work out and get faster during the summer. Realistically, I think I can get my speed to a 4.41.”
St. Augustine coach David Johnson said Mathieu’s speed in the open field is deceptive.
“He has been timed at 4.4 but I think he faster’s than that,” Johnson said. “He plays more like a player with 4.3 speed.
“He has excellent man-for-man cover skills. He studies receiver’s routes and shuts them down. He’ll come in and be ready to play mentally in the SEC. He’s a real intelligent guy.”
Mathieu played both ways in his senior year, scoring touchdowns rushing, receiving and returning.
“He’s an impact player,” said Johnson. “Nobody in the district threw to his side of the field. Only one team did. It was Jesuit, and he picked both balls off and took one to the house.”
Rivals.com ranks Mathieu as a four-star recruit, the No. 11 cornerback in the nation, and the No. 9 prospect among all positions in Louisiana.
Recently, defensive backs coach Ron Cooper and recruiting coordinator Frank Wilson have kept an open dialogue with Mathieu.
“Coach Cooper did a great job explaining the system to him, different things he’s going to be doing,” said Johnson. “He really likes to play man coverage, but he does understand zone coverage and different schemes and different things like that.”
Johnson said that New Orleans native Wilson has developed a solid relationship with Mathieu, and it has made his commitment to the Tigers even stronger.
The corner first met Wilson as a freshman, when the coach was an assistant at the University of Southern Mississippi. Their paths later crossed at a football camp in Knoxville, Tenn., when Wilson was an assistant at the University of Tennessee.
“We had a long talk,” Mathieu said. “When (Wilson) got the job at LSU, he was like it was meant for him and me to be together.”
Coach Johnson feels Mathieu will be a good fit for the Tigers.
“Now he has somebody who truly understands him, from the same place he’s from, and he’s really comfortable with Coach Wilson,” said Johnson. “They’ve hit it off real good.”
Johnson said that he thinks Mathieu has a chance to play early, but Mathieu may need time to adjust to the pressure of college football.
“I think it’s going to take some time moving up from high school. It’s not just going to college but entering LSU and entering the SEC,” said Johnson. “He has the mindset and he has the work ethic to make that jump, but it’s going to be a major jump.”
Because Johnson does not allow his players to speak with other schools or take any other recruiting visits after making a verbal commitment, there is very little chance Mathieu will change his commitment.
“A couple other schools have tried to inquire about him, but I’ve been telling them he has a solid commitment to LSU,” said Johnson.