Icon SMI - Tyrann Mathieu

SDS is continually counting down the top 25 players in the SEC for 2012, and we’re not stopping until we get to No. 1.

Tyrann Mathieu – No. 5

We now start the top five players in the SEC for 2012, and the Honey Badger kicks things off at No. 5.

Yes, the Honey Badger, formally known as Tyrann Mathieu, had a monster coming-out party in 2011.

As a freshman in 2010, Mathieu showed signs of crazy, ball-hawking abilities; however, I’m not sure anyone knew the impact Mathieu would have on the Tigers this past year.

2011 was a sweet, sweet year for the Honey Badger. He received the Bednarik Award for best defensive player in the country, and he was a 2011 Heisman Trophy finalist, along with being a finalist for the Walter Camp Player of the Year. He was pretty much a unanimous All-American player at every level, and it just so happened to be on America’s biggest stage in the SEC.

Mathieu just has a knack for coming up with big plays at the most important times. He has an LSU career-best 11 forced fumbles in two years.

Not only does he provide a spark on defense, but he makes plays on special teams as well at very important times in the game. The biggest return that immediately comes to mind is in the SEC Championship game against the Georgia Bulldogs when LSU was really struggling to get anything going. Mathieu steps up, again.

And while there is some criticism for his suspension last year for smoking synthetic marijuana, for the most part, he has kept himself straight. I think that was a great lesson for him to learn that he’s not bigger than the team, and hopefully he turned the page and became a better person, teammate and player because of it.

And while I also might get some criticism for not having Mathieu No. 1 or 2 in this countdown, I do think he’s primed for another big year for the Tigers. I also think his cover skills can greatly improve, and he is not the best cover corner in the conference for next year. However, that same great knack for making big plays should follow him once again this season, both on special teams and on defense.

The Countdown: