​Disruptor Harold Perkins Leads the Tiger Defense

December 31, 2023

Disruptor Harold Perkins Leads the Tiger Defense

By Joey Johnston

Over the summer, LSU's Harold Perkins was named Preseason National Defensive Player of the Year by one publication. For good reason. He was a big-time disruptor off the edge.

After this season, when he was moved to inside linebacker, Perkins was named second-team All-SEC.

Massive underachievement?

LSU coach Brian Kelly said no, describing the position change as a "learning curve'' that will benefit the team - and Perkins - in the future. Kelly believes that Perkins' contributions will accelerate when the Tigers (9-3) face the Wisconsin Badgers (7-5) in the ReliaQuest Bowl on New Year's Day at Raymond James Stadium.

"We didn't get the kind of 'wow factor' that we put him in position for last year,'' Kelly said. "He was learning how to play the linebacker position. That slowed him down.

"But we can see it coming together. He started to take off at the end of the season. It's going to be exciting to see how that translates in the bowl game, then going into next year.''

Last season, when Perkins chose LSU over Texas A&M, he was viewed as a 6-foot-1, 220-pound hybrid athlete. Coaches weren't exactly sure when Perkins should play. It was a "see ball get ball'' kind of approach. Kelly even said "we kind of drew some things up in the sand.''

With all of that, Perkins' freshman season was a smash.

Despite starting just eight of 14 games, Perkins was third on the team with 72 tackles. He had a team-leading 13.5 tackles for loss, including 7.5 sacks, while forcing four fumbles, intercepting a pass and generating 14 quarterback hurries.

Arkansas certainly remembered Perkins last season. Against the Razorbacks, Perkins had three sacks, eight tackles and two forced fumbles, including a game-saving strip of Arkansas quarterback Cade Fortin with 1:17 remaining in a 13-10 LSU victory.

So why the position change?

"We had to teach him the structure of playing, the integrity of playing and being in the gap, and we believe was can do even more things with Harold in a structured situation,'' Kelly said.

Perkins has also switched from the No. 40 of his freshman season to No. 4. Some eyebrows were raised in the early season when Perkins had just six total tackles (none for a loss) in LSU's first two games.

Where was Harold Perkins, the disruptive force?

Truthfully, the statistics of Perkins' sophomore season weren't all that different than 2022 - 71 tackles, team-leading 13 tackles for a loss, 5.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and six quarterback hurries.

In just two seasons, Perkins has built an impressive resume that could position him as one of the SEC's most impressive and productive defensive players. He grew up and played high-school ball in Houston, but actually hails from New Orleans. When he was 2, his family fled the city due to Hurricane Katrina.

Perkins was attracted by a return to his home state and Kelly's reputation for developing players.

"We think Harold playing where he's playing inside, it will benefit the team and his development for the next level,'' Kelly said. "In time, it's going to be clear. We have been seeing that in the late season.''

And Kelly expects the disruptive version of Harold Perkins to be front and center at the ReliaQuest Bowl.