By LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
5. JAQUELIN ROY
6 TACKLES (season high)
1 QB HURRY
Jaquelin Roy's junior season was always expected to be the year LSU's NFL-level DT put it all together....as a run-stuffer, pass rusher, gap clogger & playmaker.
Instead, over his first 7 games, Roy played through various injuries, starting and playing high snap counts alongside Mekhi Wingo but rarely popping with significant game-changing contributions.
At 32 tackles on the year, Roy will definitely pile high his largest tackling campaign in 2022, however he's only registered a half of a sack & 1.5 tackles for loss (6 TFLs & 1.5 Sacks in 2021).
Plus, after forcing a fumble and recovering 2 others last season, Roy has yet to create another major play since.
As Roy held serve, playing through the pain of his injuries, DT Mekhi Wingo benefited from the junior defender's double team magnetism, LSU's Missouri DT transfer rising as the strongest defensive tackle and overall defender this season.
It's been a rough year for Roy, the pain cutting out some of his more direct playmaking....still...when one watches the tape, Roy's mere presence is clearly a snap-by-snap net positive for LSU.
Based upon his reputation alone, J-Roy picks up double teams or drags attention from both center and each guard, creating just enough space & time for Wingo to drive into the backfield, with Roy being the subtle effector up front.
Against Arkansas, much like his performance vs Alabama, Roy is starting to look himself again, grabbing his most tackles on the year, stuffing & spilling plays for Penn, Baskerville, Perkins or Brooks to finish off, creating pass rushing avenues for Ojulari or Perkins at will, while adding a key QB hurry on 3rd down.
Piece by piece, Roy is turning it on...and though we may look back at his 2022 stat columns with some disappointment, it's a blessing just to have Roy out there...given his motor, intensity and athleticism....even while playing at 50-60% health.
This is his first entry into our top 5 performers all season.
4. GREG PENN III
1 QB PRESSURE
1 QB HIT
-2nd highest Def. Grade (76.7)
-#1 Coverage Grade (78.5)
Contributing a team-leading 9 tackles, forcing 2.5 behind the line of scrimmage, Greg Penn III could've taken the top spot on this list....if only Harold Perkins didn't produce one of the greatest defensive Tiger performances ever.
While struggling through the first 6 weeks, Penn still received starting opportunities, even as he gave up plays in the passing game & allowed gashing runs through his gaps.
But after Brian Kelly's staff challenged Penn to raise his game, the former De Matha High prospect enjoyed what Head Coach Brian Kelly called "easily his best game as a Tiger."
Penn's steely, more traditional linebacker profile helped clean up the bruising interior work of Mekhi Wingo and Jaquelin Roy, forcing Arkansas'#1 back Raheim Sanders to a season-low in yards (46).
Against three straight top tier opponents (two inside the top 10), Greg isn't being beaten by outside rushing attempts or easy passes over the middle, his confidence obviously building.
Penn also carried the highest coverage grade through 17 cover snaps, allowing 2 catches for 3 yards as he gave up nothing.
Hesitating in the early part of the year, Penn is now attacking the football with the fury, pace and angle intelligence which made him a high priority commitment in 2020....inspired and driven by the rise of freshman Harold Perkins.
If LSU's defense continues to gain the strength and power of Penn alongside Harold Perkins & Micah Baskerville, then you have to feel great about LSU's linebacker unit going into UAB, A&M and UGA in Atlanta thereafter.
Earlier this season, someone watching one of my postgame shows commented that Penn was "too slow for the SEC".....
We stuck up for him....and I am glad we did.
Right now, #30 is getting the last laugh.
3. BJ OJULARI
2 QB HITS
-77.2 Overall rating
-74.2 Run Defense Grade (#1)
Continuing his strongest season at LSU, BJ Ojulari just gets better by the snap.
Adding 7 tackles after his career high 11 vs. Alabama, LSU's future 1st round pick is receiving the glory as well as doing the dirty work for Brian Kelly's squad.
Stopping the run, generating LSU's best run stuff grade (74.2), the #1 tackling rating (80.2), and their third highest pass rushing grade (67.9).
His endless presence affords DL Coach Jamar Cain consistency off the edge (playing all 69 snaps vs. Arkansas & the 4th most of any defender in 2022, even while missing the Southern and New Mexico games).
Of course, Ojulari's brilliance will be outmatched by what Harold Perkins perpetrated upon Arkansas, but do not dismiss how much his active, heat-seeking pass rush dominance opened up possibilities for Perkins on the other flank.
Both Ojulari and Perkins together is a frightening, cataclysmic beauty to behold for any defensive line obsessive....and as we count ourselves among that category of heathen-ish human, there's been nothing more entertaining for me this season than watching BJ Ojulari, Mekhi Wingo, Harold Perkins, Jay Ward and this entire LSU defense go to work.
2. JOSH WILLIAMS
122 RUSHING YARDS
7 first downs
-3rd & 18 conversion (20 yard run)
The former walk-on has catapulted his career & banished any former "this" or "that" talk, all by his star spangled performances in 2022:
Josh Williams is a repeat offender on our Top 5 Tiger Performers lists, landing on our top 5 vs. Florida & Auburn, among others, but now when someone says "former walk-on" concerning Josh, it's becoming harder for people to believe it.
Josh continues to rattle off big plays for an at times deeply struggling offense, out-gaining LSU's entire receiving corps on Saturday (122 to 86).
Against Arkansas, Williams propped up the Tigers' listless offensive production, time and time again:
Earning 7 first downs in a single game for the third time this year (four appearances of 5+ first downs), including an early blistering 20 yard run on 3rd and 18, King Josh rooted Arkansas to the spot & made wanna be tacklers miss, showing excellent burst, vision and cutting action that we've never seen from Williams all at once.
In a game where Jayden Daniels rushed for an insane season low of 10 yards, throwing under 90 yards for the second game this year, Josh Williams' every yard or every second effort became paramount to LSU's 3 point victory in Fayetteville.
Williams rushed for a career high 122 yards from 19 carries before punching in LSU's only touchdown of the game, his 6th on the season as he leads all non-Jayden Daniels Tigers in scoring.
Over the past 7 or 8 weeks, Williams has become a constant touchstone for LSU, a nonstop harbinger of dominion....now, Williams is just the second non-QB Tiger to eclipse 100 yards all season.
1. HAROLD PERKINS
-Tied Chuck Wiley's 1995 single game LSU sacks record
3 QB HITS
-80.5 (#1 Graded Defender)
-93.8 (#1 Graded Pass Rusher)
-SEC Defensive Player of The Week
In one of the most viscerally omnipotent, explosively cosmic, orgasmically unstoppable defensive showcases I've ever seen from an LSU Tiger, specifically concerning the high stakes on the line, his team's desperate need for his influence or the player's tender young age, freshman linebacker Harold Perkins almost single-handedly delivered victory in Fayetteville, tying Chuck Wiley's single game LSU record of 4 sacks (Wiley 1995), while forcing 2 game-changing fumbles.
In what proved to be the Tigers' final obstacle on their way to an SEC Championship Game, Perkins' defensive masterclass decided the outcome in a close, bruising affair played in 35 degree weather, securing an SEC West division title during his debut season.....oh yeah, I forgot to mention: he also accomplished his career night as he dealt with the flu.
Head Coach Brian Kelly compared Perkins' historic display to Michael Jordan's legendary "flu game":
"He got sick before the game," Kelly said at the start of the postgame press conference. "He threw up as we were going into our team meeting. "I said, 'Hey, you know, MJ threw up when he had his greatest game,'" Kelly detailed.
Messing with BK, Harold replied, "Who's MJ?"
Imagine if he didn't have the flu....8 sacks?
It was a scary performance from Harold Perkins and one we'd been expecting from the fiery young phenom:
Perkins was building to this explosion all year. His profound weekly impact was already apparent: without Perkins vs. Alabama, Florida, Auburn, or Ole Miss, LSU does not win those games.
by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
©️ 2022 Uninterrupted Writings Inc