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TOP 10 TIGERS OF 2023: #5 HAROLD PERKINS

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By LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN


Following LSU's regular season finale victory over A&M on Senior Day, finishing 9-3 over 12 games, yet another season is in the books, the final fall of the SEC West before conference realignment begins next August.

With just one more game remaining in the season, we now have a full picture of who stood out as the 10 best Tigers of 2023....without further explanation, we're going to dive right in, just as we've done every season in which we've covered the team:



2023 TOP 10 COUNTDOWN SO FAR


AND NOW.....#5.......


5. HAROLD PERKINS

708 SNAPS (3rd)

71 TACKLES (4th)

22 PRESSURES (Tied-1st)

13 TFLs (1st)

5.5 SACKS (1st)

5 PBUs (2nd)

4 FORCED INCOMPLETIONS

3 FFs (1st)

1 INT


LSU's 2023 defense will be remembered among the program's worst in its history, squandering away a championship-level offensive juggernaut, led by a Heisman-winning QB, scoring 46.2 points per game, while ranking 1st in yards per game, yards per play, 3rd down conversion percentage and many other categories.

Tiger history will judge Brian Kelly's 2nd season as the year his team cheated themselves out of championship contention due to rampant defensive failings, however none of the blame can ever fall at the feet of LSU's best defender in 2023, linebacker Harold Perkins.

As fans bitched and moaned about Perkins being used at a variety of spots, rather than a pure edge rushing titan of yesteryear, their fabled linebacker adapted.

Amidst 3 defeats & multiple games allowing 600+ yards, something happened that was organic and beneficial for both Harold's individual and LSU's collective defensive growth:

Under the radar & easily missed due to our horrific defense (as well as Matt House's own misuse of Perkins vs Alabama & other opponents), Harold's game evolved, putting out fires wherever he could via multiple roles:

Grabbing key sacks vs Florida or A&M, wrapping up 6+ tackles during 7 appearances, leading the team in total QB pressures (22), tackles for loss (13), forced fumbles (3), and once again in sacks (5.5), Perkins continued to deliver his typical fury around (or behind) the line of scrimmage.

Simultaneously, Harold also became a shutdown cover man:

Perkins broke up 5 passes (2nd most on the team), forced 4 incompletions via strong coverage, before coming up with a key interception for the 2nd straight season, this time providing the play of the game @ Mizzou.

Shutting down explosive WR Luther Burden (holding Burden to 4 yards and a single catch after the Mizzou WR torched LSU for over 100 and a TD in just the 1st quarter), Perkins dominated in an adapted role, mano e mano vs one of the nation's best receivers, at the precise time his team needed him most...not just blanketing Burden, indeed, Harold supplied a rare 2023 turnover for Heisman-winner Jayden Daniels to cash in.

His contributions may have gone unnoticed by the masses, yet real football junkies are aware of the LSU linebacker's consistency throughout 2023.

The additional issues, injuries or absences all across the defensive lineup and staff only serves to highlight his production, timely playmaking, and sustained backfield disruption.

Harold Perkins' sophomore campaign won't be remembered as well as his electric freshman debut, yet I feel the All-SEC defender will be such a better overall player due to the hard lessons learned this past fall.

There was the debacle vs Florida St, where defensive coordinator / LBs Coach Matt House instructed Perkins to stand stationary as a newfound literal "middle linebacker", lost as a spectator when the Seminoles simply ran or threw away from Harold, taking full advantage of the confusing, poorly managed scheme. Then, once FSU ran straight at him, the former 5 star was hung out to dry, left to be embarrassed for the first time as a Tiger.

Regardless of the fallacy of any scheme he was thrust into, from then on, Harold never allowed himself to be run over again.

What about his stronger performances alongside veteran Greg Penn III when freshman Whit Weeks became a starter? Only for any defensive momentum to evaporate next to Omar Speights in a historically abysmal 700+ yards & 55 points allowed to Ole Miss.

Perkins could often be seen breathlessly hunting ball carriers or tracking down big play after big play, cleaning up his teammates' messes, missed tackles or bungled assignments, even making a few mistakes himself within House's ruinous defensive stain.

Like some of LSU's elite defenders who gave their all amid House's crumbling castle (or their own teammates' pitfalls), the sophomore LB didn't have it all go his way. He certainly clocked the miles, playing over 700 snaps as he chased down constant intermediary completions, made thankless and at times forgotten plays in the backfield, as well as giving our porous secondary an extra coverage presence they desperately needed.

Without Perkins' contributions, LSU's defense would have surely lost even more games for the Tigers, consequently costing Jayden Daniels the 2023 Heisman Trophy.

Delivering strong defensive showings against the grain, making plays vs almost every opponent as he littered the stat box, refusing to back down from anyone at any time (while teammates were too soft or hesitant), and rising above a confusing, disorganized, dysfunctional defensive setup, Harold Perkins' multi-faceted, generational skill-set still matured at a frightening rate.

The reality is....for two seasons of his LSU career, which has an end date that is rapidly approaching in just 12 months, defensive coordinator Matt House still hasn't figured out how to properly utilize, maximize or develop Harold Perkins, and regardless of that overwhelming fact, the New Orleans native continues to produce at an insatiable rate.

But when it comes to a generational talent such as Harold Perkins, the last words you want to start sentences with are "what if"....and somehow, as incendiary as he's been, looking back over his 2 seasons at LSU, the words "what if" already pop into my head.


By LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN

©️ 2023 Uninterrupted Writings Inc

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