BATON ROUGE - Tyrann Mathieu plans to quit his frequent use of social media cold turkey when LSU's season starts, and coach Les Miles is very much in favor of that.
Miles placed a figurative muzzle on the play-making cornerback and Heisman Trophy finalist popularly known as the "Honey Badger" when LSU reported for August camp last week. LSU's annual media day on Tuesday, when every player is available, marked the first time Mathieu was permitted to talk to reporters about his starring role on a team that is widely expected to contend again for a national title.
One thing Mathieu made clear is that he is willing to tone down his public persona if that is what best serves the team.
"I respect Coach, and whatever decision he makes I go along with it," Mathieu said. "There's a lot of guys on this team who are deserving of the spotlight. I don't have to be in it all the time and I'm fine with that.
"Everything's going well right now and I've just got to watch what I put on Twitter," he added.
Generally, Mathieu reserves social media for philosophical musings and personal reflection, such as when he tweeted: "Common sense is not so common."
He could have been referring to a day in June when got into a bit of a Twitter spat with A.J. McCarron, quarterback of arch rival Alabama, against whom the Tigers will play on Nov. 3.
Mathieu essentially downplayed McCarron's role in the Crimson Tide's 14th national title last season, which came at LSU's expense, saying that defense wins championships. McCarron responded mockingly that Mathieu was right, and that the Crimson Tide's team concept is what made them great, and why they beat LSU in last season's title game in New Orleans.
Miles responded by leaving his 2012 Heisman contender behind when LSU took several players to Birmingham for Southeastern Conference media days.
"It's a week-by-week thing," Miles said of his approach to managing Mathieu's media exposure. "I really listen to Tyrann and try to determine what's best for him.
"I enjoy many times his representation, and as long as it doesn't become a distraction to him, he'll have some time to visit (with reporters)," Miles said. "So many times, he's such a pleasing guy, he wants to please everybody. ... Too many interviews, one after another, just doesn't tell him what he needs to do. What he needs to do is do well academically, finish this football season and have a long-range view of himself. Sometimes, even though the world wants today's quote, that's not necessarily what's important."
Mathieu, who dyes the top of his hair yellow, grew up in New Orleans, home to a culture where personal expression is generally encouraged and rewarded, as anyone who has ever attended a Mardi Gras parade or second line would see.
His coaches profess to love him as a person and a player. Defensive end Sam Montgomery calls him "a philosopher."
Defensive coordinator Jon Chavis calls him "a wonderful young man," but responded Tuesday to questions about Mathieu's knack for capturing the public's imagination by emphasizing how much more important the team concept is than any one star player.
"He's a very talented guy, but it is a team sport," Chavis said. "How many Heisman Trophy winners have you seen on losing football teams?"
Mathieu seems to have heard that message and taken it to heart.
When asked about his Heisman hopes, he responded, "In order to be a Heisman finalist, your team has to play national championship football. So I think, at the end of the day, winning postseason awards and a national championship puts everyone in a position to succeed."
Media day also marked the first time Penn State transfer Rob Bolden was made available to talk about his role as a reserve quarterback since he arrived on campus last week.
Bolden, an off and on starter at Penn State who has two years of eligibility remaining, said he has wanted to transfer to LSU since long before the Jerry Sandusky scandal that led to harsh sanctions against the Nittany Lions. He said the only way the scandal figured in was that it allowed him to get his release last month to play this season on whatever team he chose.
"Penn State was a great place, taught me a lot, I've been through a lot in that place and I appreciate everything they've done for me," Bolden said. "That coaching staff, they were great. (Late Penn State coach) Joe (Paterno) helped me out a lot. My (former) teammates, I love them. I'll always be friends with them."
Bolden came out of spring practice at Penn State with little hope of starting his junior season. He had been recruited by LSU coming out of high school and had maintained a good relationship with Miles, who saw the benefit of bringing in a backup quarterback with big-game experience to a team playing in the often brutal SEC.
For now, Bolden is so new to LSU that coaches say there is no telling when he will be ready to take meaningful snaps. Bolden also knows that LSU is set on junior Zach Mettenberger as its starter, but still sees LSU as a good fit for a quarterback like him who is as comfortable running as throwing.
"It's the best place in the country, ranked No. 1 (in the USA Today coaches poll), great weather, great food, great people, why not?" Bolden said. "I bring a lot to the table. I've been through a lot. I don't think there's anything you could put in front of me that would surprise me at all.
"I understand the situation (with Mettenberger starting). I understand everything that's going on. I'm just here. I thought it was the best thing for me."
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