It didn’t take long for the buzz about Tyrann Mathieu to start leaking out of LSU’s camp.
During 2010 summer workouts, a couple months before Mathieu played his first game for the Tigers, word started to spread through the team about a little freshman who played well beyond his size.
Mathieu, a 5-foot-9 cornerback who helped lead the 2010 U.S. Under-19 team to a 14-0 win in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., wasn’t a highly recruited prospect out of St. Augustine High School in New Orleans. But he’s made up for lost time.
In just 16 college games, the sophomore for the second-ranked Tigers has played himself into an NFL Draft prospect, said Mike Detillier, a college football and NFL Draft analyst based in Louisiana.
Just starting his second season, Mathieu has 81 tackles, five sacks, 11½ tackles for loss, two interceptions, 10 pass break-ups, four fumble recoveries and six forced fumbles. He was named Defensive MVP of the Cotton Bowl last season, making seven tackles – including a sack – along with two forced fumbles and an interception in a 41-24 win over Texas A&M.
“The one thing I saw with Tyrann was his game was not too big for him,” Detillier said. “A lot of times, you get guys coming out of the high school ranks who are physically gifted and can play, but the game is too fast for them. Maybe the mental part is a little too quick and their impact is not felt until they’re a redshirt freshman, a sophomore or even juniors.
“Tyrann came in as a true freshman and was an impact player.”
And it’s turned Mathieu into a viable NFL prospect.
“Barring any sort of injury, he’s going to be a first-round pick in the NFL, and he’s going to play a long time because you can’t coach what he has, just natural football instincts around the ball,” Detillier said.
As a pro prospect, Mathieu has been compared to former Texas A&M cornerback Aaron Glenn, who spent 15 years as an NFL cornerback. The main similarity: both are 5-9.
Mathieu’s size has long been a concern, Detillier said, which caused many Division I teams to back off the defensive back in high school. He received offers from SMU, Southern Miss, Miami (Ohio), Florida International, Tulane and Hampton before attending camps at LSU and Tennessee, Detillier said. It didn’t take long for LSU coach Les Miles to offer Mathieu a scholarship and even less time for Mathieu to accept.
Detillier, who has been covering the SEC for about 25 years, compared the Mathieu’s impact at LSU as a freshman to Champ Bailey’s at Georgia and Janoris Jenkins’ at Florida.
“Tyrann came in and had a bigger impact playmaking-wise than (former LSU star and top 5 NFL draft pick) Patrick Peterson did as a freshman,” Detillier said.
Detillier pointed to LSU’s game against Mississippi State last weekend as evidence of how far Mathieu has grown as a player. The Bulldogs, Detillier pointed out, barely threw to Mathieu’s side – the ultimate compliment for a cornerback.
Detillier expects to see Mathieu among this season’s All-SEC selections and maybe even get an All-American nod.
“He’s got great football instincts – not good, great,” Detillier said. “His anticipation skills are unbelievable. His ability to read and react to a wide receiver and quarterback is tremendous. The game is slow for him because he has those types of skills.
“That’s something that Mathieu’s got. He’s got it at another level that you rarely see.”