One player stood out amidst the action when LSU dominated Auburn over the weekend, garnering the attention of fans once again after a slow start – Harold Perkins Jr. In recognition of his clutch performance, the former five-star linebacker was awarded the game ball.
Despite his relatively short tenure in football, this game showcased a vintage Perkins performance. While he made an impact against Auburn last year with an interception off Koy Moore, his performance in this game surpassed all expectations.
Perkins exhibited his defensive prowess with five tackles, two of which resulted in a loss, including a remarkable sack. He also managed a pass break up and a quarterback hit when he relentlessly pursued Robby Ashford, taking him down just as he released the ball.
"That's what I do," said Perkins, reflecting on his violent sack against Ashford. The play proved crucial as it halted Auburn's drive in the red zone, forcing them to settle for a field goal. Ultimately, this extinguished Auburn's last significant threat of the night.
Perkins exudes confidence, a trait that should come as no surprise. However, it hasn't been smooth sailing for the All-SEC linebacker this season.
At the start of the year, LSU experimented with moving Perkins across the defense. He initially played mostly in the box, then shifted to the slot, followed by another return to the box. In a game against Ole Miss, he found himself primarily on the defensive line, but unfortunately struggled with four missed tackles.
Now, Brian Kelly has made a switch that he feels incredibly comfortable with, and the results were evident on the field. The defensive success was palpable.
"We were searching for the right defensive structure for [him], and we were moving him all around. Now, we've committed to four down linemen with Harold at the SAM linebacker position," explained Kelly. “Everybody is now comfortable in knowing what their assignments are. When you can get your cleats in the ground and play defense, I know it sounds like these are cliches, but it really helps with the confidence of the group.”
Perkins echoed his coach's sentiments regarding the new defensive structure and the sense of stability it has brought amidst the ongoing chaos on the defensive side of the ball.
“I think we’re all in sync now. We’re playing together as one,” said Perkins. “I just feel like we were always out there trying to make plays, but now we’re letting the plays come to us.”
One of the most significant adjustments made by the coaching staff mid-season was an increased emphasis on tackling during practice. Kelly mentioned that they now dedicate approximately 20 minutes every day solely to tackling. Previously, they would only spend one or two periods on tackling during the week. Perkins attributed the positive change to this intensified focus.
“We practice hard. That was one of the things we had to correct in practice. Practice makes perfect," Perkins said.