Every year, fans eagerly await the release of Heisman trophy odds and speculation begins on who the potential front runners for the prestigious award will be. Quarterbacks like Caleb Williams, Drake Maye, and Jordan Travis dominate the conversation, but what if this is the year a defensive player steals the spotlight? For LSU fans, the talk revolves around quarterback Jayden Daniels, but another name has emerged – Harold Perkins.
Every opponent that faces LSU this season will have one question on their scouting report: "Where is Harold Perkins?" The true freshman quickly established himself as one of the nation's top defensive players, and the Tigers wisely focused on allowing him to wreak havoc in the backfield without overwhelming him during his first year. As his role expanded last season, Perkins often lined up alongside BJ Ojulari, showcasing his versatility by occasionally playing in the slot. This athleticism not only allowed him to impact games as a pass rusher but also kept offenses guessing as he dropped back in coverage and disrupted plays in the middle of the field.
During limited spring practice viewing, Perkins demonstrated yet another way he could make an impact. He was seen lining up with transfer Omar Speights in a 4-2-5 drill, while also spending time at the JACK spot. His versatility remains a key asset, but it seems that playing as an inside linebacker could become his primary role.
Perkins had an impressive 2022 campaign, tallying 72 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks, and four forced fumbles. Now, FanDuel has named Perkins as the defensive player with the best odds to win the Heisman entering 2023, albeit with odds as long as +15000.
While the odds may be stacked against him, it's intriguing to imagine what it would take for Perkins to even be considered for the ceremony in New York. Being a finalist as a defensive player requires an exceptional season. Since 2012, only Aiden Hutchinson (2021) and Manti Te'o (2012) have managed to finish in the top three in Heisman voting.
So, what would it take for Perkins to defy the odds? First and foremost, he needs to make memorable plays that capture the attention of voters. A "Heisman moment" or game where Perkins completely dominates and takes over is essential. And yes, he has the ability to do it. While his performances against Ole Miss and Arkansas from last year are etched in fans' memories, Perkins needs at least one game where he combines multiple sacks with a pick-six. These unforgettable moments can solidify his candidacy in the minds of voters.
Furthermore, Perkins played a limited role last season as the team tried to determine how best to utilize his skills. Breaking the 100-tackle mark and achieving double-digit sacks would undoubtedly impress the voters.
While it's true that the Heisman is still primarily a quarterback award, we can't forget about the precedent set in 2021 with Aiden Hutchinson finishing second in voting and Will Anderson placing fifth. It showed that defensive players can generate enough attention to be in the conversation. So, while the odds may be long, it's always fun to speculate and dream during the month of July.