Surrounded by a smattering of media members inside the Grand Hyatt ballroom, Wingo was there to represent LSU at SEC Media Days. Fresh off a year in which he earned third-team All-American honors after transferring from Mizzou, Wingo got excited when a certain subject came up - Harold Perkins.
There was a moment last season when Wingo realized that Perkins was on a different level as a true freshman. It came before the Mississippi State game during practice that week. Perkins had joined the LSU defensive linemen for drills so that he could get some pass-rushing reps. Wingo and his LSU teammates got a front-row seat to the Perkins show.
Perkins treated the entire 2022 season as his “exploded onto the scene” moment. The best defensive player in college football wasn’t at SEC Media Days. Somehow, Brian Kelly got as many questions about artificial intelligence in football as he did about Perkins.
Perkins, even as a 19-year-old sophomore, was on the minds of many in Nashville.
Well, he wasn’t in Nashville, where Quinshon Judkins is the only second-year SEC player set to represent his team. Don’t look too far into that. It’s rare to see a sophomore on that stage. It’s even rarer to see a freshman do the things that Perkins did. Among SEC returners, Perkins had the most sacks (8.5) and tackles for loss (14). Among all SEC players in 2022, only Will Anderson had more tackles for loss than Perkins. No Power 5 linebacker had a better PFF pass-rushing grade than Perkins.
Could Perkins be the second coming of Anderson? Probably not because Anderson lined up exclusively off the edge, whereas Perkins is expected to line up in more of a traditional linebacker role at times this year (he played 180 snaps in the box and 210 off the edge in 2022).
What’ll be interesting to see is how the highly anticipated return of Maason Smith impacts Perkins’ role. Smith had all the offseason buzz heading into 2022, but he went down with a season-ending injury on the opening series against Florida State. With Smith back as a game-wrecking interior defensive lineman, Kelly is hoping that opens up even more matchup nightmares.
There’s no denying that Perkins will be at the top of every scouting report. All you have to do is turn on the Arkansas game last year.
On what unofficially became Harold Perkins Day, the true freshman helped LSU win the Boot trophy at Arkansas. He had 8 tackles, 3 sacks, 2 forced fumbles in the win. Go figure that it was a “boot and rally” effort from Perkins.
Of more importance is whether Perkins can have a few more flu games. LSU hasn’t repeated as West champs since divisions became a thing. Could Perkins and that loaded front be the difference? It certainly feels possible.
It might be another year before Perkins is representing his team at SEC Media Days. He’ll have a chance to address the masses as possibly an even more unanimous “best defensive player in America.”
Until then, though, pull up a front-row seat to the Perkins show.