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Insider

After Mathieu: Five playmakers to watch

8/10/2012

After LSU dismissed Tyrann Mathieu from the team Friday, who are the best candidates to emerge as LSU's primary playmaker? Here are some candidates.

1. WR Odell Beckham, Jr.: Already the likely candidate to be the go-to receiver for quarterback Zach Mettenberger, Beckham's role increased Friday. Head coach Les Miles called Beckham a "very talented punt returner," a role Mathieu excelled in. If Beckham proves to be that, his star could rise quickly as he also sees his receiving production increase.

2. S Eric Reid: The thing LSU will miss the most from Mathieu will be his ability to create turnovers. Reid may be asked to do a bit more of that. Already a pre-season all-American and a candidate to be a first-round NFL draft pick at the end of the season, Reid's been known more for his steady play than as a big-play maker. With Mathieu gone, he may need to become more of a big-play creator.

3. CB Tharold Simon: Like Mathieu before him, Simon took the third cornerback role and became star a year ago. An unusually long (6-foot-3) cornerback, he has a knack for baiting quarterbacks to thinking a receiver is open, then unraveling his impossibly long limbs to make a play on the ball. If he can learn to catch more of them -- he broke up 10 passes, but intercepted just two last season -- he's a guy who might make some game-changing plays for the Tigers

4. QB Zach Mettenberger: Without Mathieu, LSU's defense could become a little less dominant and the Tigers could find themselves needing to win a shootout or two. If that happens, the Tigers could be turning to their new quarterback's strong right arm to make plays to win higher-scoring games. Miles and offensive coordinator Greg Studrawa have both raved on Mettenberger's ability to throw downfield. The Tigers may end up needing that more than anybody thought.

5. WR Russell Shepard: Shepard has always been a talent, but it's never resulted in production. With Mathieu gone and Shepard already slated to be the primary kickoff returner, it could be an opening he needs to take his game to the next level. Unusually fast and shifty, he may finally get enough touches to fill the big play void and live up to his hype.