BATON ROUGE, La. -- Tyrann Mathieu started a new chapter in his LSU life Tuesday, that of a regular, pay-his-own-way student.
The 2011 Heisman Trophy finalist started classes Tuesday after going through four weeks of substance-abuse rehabilitation in Houston with John Lucas. He was dismissed from the team Aug. 10 for violating the school's substance-abuse policy. He chose to return to LSU rather than transfer to a Football Championship Subdivision school, where he would have been able to play right away.
His former teammates said they will remain supportive of the player who became known nationally as the "Honey Badger."
"I saw him on campus today," said free safety Eric Reid, a former roommate of Mathieu's. "He's looking great. He's very positive. It's a positive step in his life. I know he wants to be back on the field, but he's just going to have to be patient and that day will come."
Asked whether the current players will maintain their relationships with Mathieu while he's away from the team, Reid said, "He's one of us. He's our brother. He came in with my class, so I know him. He was my roommate, so he's still here and still a part of this team as far as I'm concerned.
"We're just going to continue to be encouraging to him and hope this process goes by fast."
Tharold Simon, the cornerback who was to form one of the nation's top cornerback tandems with Mathieu, said his friend is focused on "doing things better for himself" right now.
"Not just from a football perspective," Simon said. "But just in his own way, he wants to better himself. He wants to be a better person. I think that's why he chose to come back to LSU."
When coach Les Miles was asked about Mathieu, he spoke well of his (for now) former player but quickly deflected the conversation back to this week's opponent, Washington.
"I think he is making some quality decisions for himself," Miles said. "That's kind of my view. I can tell you the focus is on the game and preparing for game week. There are times I can devote to these things, but I don't have that right now. I'm focused on one thing.
"Certainly, I think he made some difficult decisions for himself that will better him as he goes forward. We certainly wish him the very best."
Speaking of Washington: Miles said LSU will get a "big test" when it plays Washington on Saturday. He spoke highly of Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian, noting that UW has gone from a program that was on a 15-game losing streak the last time the two teams met -- a 31-23 season-opening win for LSU in 2009 -- to a team that has had back-to-back bowl appearances.
"They are much improved," he said.
After a season opener in which LSU had 10 penalties, two negating touchdowns, a red zone interception and two blown pass coverages resulting in touchdowns in a 41-14 win over North Texas, Miles said his team would have to play better against the Huskies, who are 1-0 after a 21-12 opening win over San Diego State.
"Washington is much improved and a very strong opponent," Miles said. "We are going to have to play well."
Wing, Ware on mend: All-American punter Brad Wing tweeted Tuesday that he's been cleared to play after missing the season opener with a hamstring injury. Miles said "we would anticipate" that Wing would return for Washington.
Running back Spencer Ware, who started last season's opener against Oregon, did not play against North Texas because Miles said he was "getting over the final pieces of an injury." Miles said he could play against Washington, saying, "I think Ware will be fine this week."
Of offensive tackle Alex Hurst and safety Craig Loston, both of whom played with injuries against North Texas, Miles said, "I think they both played about as weak as they will ever play. I think they will get better. I think they will both be on the field this game."
Reid said Loston, who is bothered by a recurring toe injury, is getting a new pair of cleats made for his injury.
No news on Jones: Miles did not sound hopeful when he addressed the status of strong-side linebacker Tahj Jones, who missed the UNT game while trying to sort out his academic status for the season. Miles said last week that Jones was appealing his academic status but did not elaborate. He also said running back Michael Ford was dealing with an appeal, but Ford was cleared in time to play against UNT.
"I know we've done the things we needed to do as an athletic department," Miles said of Jones. "I don't know what other steps there are. I hope there are other steps to take."
Jones was replaced in the starting lineup by junior Luke Muncie.