There is some good news for Tyrann Mathieu. HIs inclusion in Heisman watch lists and other award prospects were not concocted or imaginary, and his ceiling as a football player sits several stories above even the average SEC defender. His quickfire ballhawking instincts remain unparalleled. Instincts stay with you regardless of the jersey you wear, and for that Mathieu should take some consolation today.
The worst loss for Tyrann Mathieu in violating team policy and exhausting his chances with the LSU coaching staff? Losing the year of development and reps he will now have to forfeit on his roundabout way to the NFL or another school. Mathieu remains a collection of walking superlatives in terms of talent, but where he needs improvement is in the technical aspects of his game, particularly in coverage.
A year of additional reps and work with the LSU defensive coaching staff may have added some serious technical polish to his game, and thus given him a nicer signing bonus when/if he eventually makes it to the league. That is a loss, and one he should regret.
As far as the impact to LSU's 2012 season goes, the worst part will be the gap between Mathieu's punt return contributions and what LSU will have as a replacement. Odell Beckham is a great athlete, but barring some miracles from the strength and conditioning staff, he will not be the returner Mathieu is, and neither will anyone currently on the roster. Like Greg Reid at FSU, another troubled DB recently booted from his team, he leaves his biggest dent in what he gave LSU in terms of field position.
Jalen Collins, who redshirted last year, will likely replace Mathieu on the depth chart. He likely does not have Mathieu's golden turnover hands, but he may end up being a better cover corner than Mathieu ever was. He will not be this immediately, however, and that is also an immediate and apparent loss.
Do remember this: LSU had to replace a first-round pick in 2011 in losing Patrick Peterson to the NFL Draft, too. That replacement was preseason Heisman candidate and recent free agent Tyrann Mathieu. Losing him now is not good, but it is anything but the end of the world for a team still embarrassingly loaded with sprint-happy talent.