LSU can now turn page on Mathieu

BATON ROUGE, La. -- The LSU defense, ranked third overall in the nation, is doing just fine without its former feisty playmaker, Tyrann Mathieu, who was dismissed from the team in August -- and arrested Thursday along with three other former Tigers on drug-related charges.

Freshman corners Jalen Mills and Jalen Collins have stepped into the void left by Mathieu and performed admirably in helping the Tigers boast the No. 6 passing defense in the nation this season.

What's been missing is Mathieu's ability to provide a big-play spark. Rarely this season have plays emerged like his 2011 highlights -- the strips returned for touchdowns against Oregon and Kentucky, the bat-down interception return against West Virginia or the punt-return touchdowns against Arkansas and Georgia.

The Tigers will reload. Mills and Collins will continue to progress. Youngsters such as safeties Micah Eugene (three sacks) and Ronald Martin (two interceptions) are developing talents.

LSU also has commitments from a bevy of talented recruits in the 2013 recruiting class -- several of whom have experience in Mathieu's areas of expertise.

Keep an eye on versatile cornerbacks such as Jeryl Brazil (Loranger, La./Loranger), Tre'Davious White (Shreveport, La./Green Oaks) and do-everything athlete John Diarse (Monroe, La./Neville).

The quiet but persistent chatter this season had been that, after a rehab stint, Mathieu might have been able to rejoin the Tigers next season. Thursday's arrest makes that unlikely.