Updated: Jul 15
By LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
HAROLD PERKINS 2022 STATS
It may be some time before sports connoisseurs truly understand the magnitude & intrepid accomplishment of Harold Perkins' 2022 true freshman campaign.
Leading LSU in sacks, forced fumbles, and tackles for loss, ranking second in pressures (5 games of 5+ pressures), while intercepting a game-sealing pass vs Auburn, producing a victory on the road at Arkansas thanks to his repeated playmaking (4 sacks, 2 forced fumbles), Perkins did it all for Matt House's defense.
Wire to wire, we all knew we were witnessing something and someone special....completing one of the greatest campaigns by an LSU debutant in program history.
Even during the first 6 games of 2022, where the New Orleans-native only appeared in 114 of his total 514 snaps, Perkins gave everyone a sneak peek of what was to come:
Producing 10 pressures, 2 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, a 4th quarter interception at Auburn, and 26 total tackles across that span.
Utilized sparingly for the first half of the season, his effectiveness & inherent value became all too clear once #40 was no longer on the field....an obvious game-changing presence taken away whenever he stood patiently on the sidelines.
During losses to Tennessee & Florida State, where Perkins played a total of 9 defensive snaps, #40's dynamism was clearly missing on the field, with veteran starter Mike Jones Jr struggling for all to see only 1 game into his biggest season as a Tiger.
In time, there was nothing the former Clemson National Champion could do to keep Perkins at bay.
The calls for Kelly and House to play....no, to start the freshman, became booming cries of dissent, demanding an increased Perkins presence on the field come hell or high water.
Facing a Florida offense racking up yards and points on LSU early and often, defensive coordinator Matt House's hesitancy still limited Harold to under 30 total plays on the night....yet the linebacker's outrageous demonstration of power was too incredible to deny:
Racking up 4 pressures in a tantalizing display of side to side athleticism (5 solo tackles in space vs Florida's rushing attack).
In stark contrast to his first 6 games as a Tiger, Harold clocked over 50 snaps during 5 of his final 7 freshman appearances....a rampaging display that would see Perkins rise to a rare, mercurial level of defensive exaltation:
Forcing 4 fumbles over the last 5 games on the schedule (against National Champions Georgia, Purdue, and twice against Arkansas...with 2 more sack fumbles vs Florida and a 3rd vs Arkansas questionably taken off the board due to review), recording a team high 13 tackles for loss alongside 7.5 sacks, bullying and terrorizing reigning Heisman winning QB Bryce Young vs Alabama...a night where Saban's 5 star offensive line were powerless against #40, BJ Ojulari and Mekhi Wingo.....it was clear for anyone to see, Perkins wasn't just a special talent....he was transcendental in 2022.
Witnessing Harold take on Georgia with my own eyes is something I won't forget.
Studying his every flinch as he operated at nickel, linebacker, Jack linebacker, or as an edge rusher, Perkins shifted gears with a smooth versatility I haven't seen from a defender of his profile.
Clocking a season high 10 tackles, 8 as a solo artist, 1.5 tackles for loss, while pasting National Championship-winning QB Stetson Bennett into the Mercedes-Benz Stadium turf and jarring the ball loose, I was fortunate to watch Perkins in all his 2022 glory.
Taking college football by storm, Perkins garnered an All-SEC Freshman nod, multiple SEC defensive player of the week selections, while offensive coordinators around the country gawked in stupefied, droopy eyed amazement along with the rest of us.
Ravenous, relentless, rampant...unstoppable, like blocking running liquid, Harold has only had time to showcase just over 500 plays of his capabilities heading into year two.....just imagine the kind of history this young man can make over these next 2 years....
Alongside a pair of strong tackling veterans, LSU junior Greg Penn III and senior Oregon St transfer Omar Speights, Perkins will have a solid middle of the field establishment to launch his backfield attacks, knowing his speed and fury will greatly spoil most every play in the book, while both Penn and Speights can be trusted to pick up the pieces, clean up any mess, and offer a habitat where their younger, game-changing sophomore will explode.
Will Harold Perkins win the Butkus Award as a sophomore?
Will Harold Perkins top his sack mark by registering double digits in year 2???
Could Harold Perkins add SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors to his growing individual trophy cabinet???
This is a year where anything is possible with Harold. Already fast making himself an LSU icon after little more than half of a season on the field, 2023 is the campaign where we could see Perkins set himself apart....in the realm where legends like Tyrann Mathieu, Patrick Peterson, Devin White and Glenn Dorsey reside.
As 2019 LSU passing game coordinator Joe Brady once quipped......."Get your popcorn ready."
By LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
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