College News & Analysis

Harold Perkins vs Florida State: Why LSU needs to let its star defender rush the passer more often

2RPA02T ORLANDO, FL - SEPTEMBER 03: Florida State Seminoles wide receiver Deuce Spann (5) runs the ball away from LSU Tigers linebacker Harold Perkins Jr. (4) during the Camping World kickoff football game between the Florida State Seminoles and the Louisiana State University Tigers on September 3, 2023 at Camping World Stadium in Orlando FL.(Photo by Joe Petro/Icon Sportswire) (Icon Sportswire via AP Images)

Breaking down how No. 5 LSU’s best player, Harold Perkins, was misused in loss to eighth-ranked Florida State.

Used in coverage far more than as a pass-rusher: The sophomore played four times the amount of coverage snaps (28) than he did as a pass-rusher.

The Tigers should follow the Dallas Cowboys’ lead: LSU should let Perkins line up as an edge defender full-time, much like the Cowboys eventually did with Micah Parsons.

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

LSU has a supercar that it refuses to drive over 25 miles per hour. 

That’s the only way to describe how the Tigers used Harold Perkins in fifth-ranked LSU’s 45-24 loss to No. 8 Florida State on Sunday. While the sophomore posted just a 41.8 grade in the game, that should be chalked up more to what he was asked to do than his capabilities.

Perkins played 28 snaps in coverage against the Seminoles, four times the amount he did as a pass-rusher (seven). That’s because he spent most of his time as an off-ball linebacker rather than where he plays best: edge defender.

Harold Perkins’ snaps by alignment against Florida State

Alignment Snap count
Linebacker 40
Edge defender 15
Slot cornerback 4

Perkins' pass-rush ability made him a sensation a year ago. As a true freshman, he led all Power Five linebackers with a 90.9 pass-rushing grade and 18 quarterback knockdowns (sacks/hits). He drew comparisons to the legendary Von Miller for the bend and advanced pass-rushing moves he displayed last season.


Even on limited opportunities against Florida State, Perkins still flashed his ridiculous pass-rushing toolbox.


The ability to nail a “ghost” move off a euro-step approach, as he did in the above clip, is rare, and it only points to Perkins' unique skill set rushing the passer.

By making him an off-ball linebacker, that game-wrecking ability is completely neutralized. His situation is very similar to Micah Parsons during his time at Penn State and early in his career with the Dallas Cowboys. He was used as mostly an off-ball linebacker at that time but flashed insane potential when he lined up at edge defender. Finally, the Cowboys made him a full-time edge and unleashed one of the best pass-rushers in the league.

In his postgame press conference, LSU head coach Brian Kelly had this to say about Perkins’ performance. 

“He’s learning how to play a new position. We put him in a position last year where he was ‘See ball, get ball.’” 

Kelly would be wise to let Perkins “See ball, get ball” full-time, much like the Cowboys did with Parsons.


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