Georgia’s Kirby Smart calls LSU freshman LB Harold Perkins Jr. “extremely explosive, athletic.”

When the Georgia Bulldogs take the field to fight LSU in the SEC championship game, the linebacker is the Tigers Harold Perkins Jr. will draw a lot of attention. The star freshman and former five-star recruit became a key Georgia player and coach in his freshman season at LSU Kirby Smart commented on his familiarity with Perkins, who was the fifth-ranked player overall for the class of 2022 and the No. 1 in the state of Texas from Cypress Cy-Park High School.

“No, he’s from Texas,” Smart said when asking via Dawgs247 if Georgia had any recruiting interactions with Perkins. “We were aware of him, evaluated him. He was probably one of the most talented linebackers to come on tape this season. He proved that. He is extremely explosive, athletic.

Perkins became a viral sensation after a dominant performance against Arkansas earlier this month when he recorded eight tackles, four sacks and two forced fumbles – all while battling flu-like symptoms. For the season, Perkins totaled 59 tackles, 7.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and one interception.

Georgia is no stranger to facing formidable defenders after coming up against Alabama’s Star Edge rusher Will Anderson twice in a month, first in last season’s SEC championship game and then in the Bulldogs’ national title game.

While both are disruptive, Smart says Perkins and Anderson have differences.

“Different players in their careers,” Smart said. “They use them in different ways. They have a slightly different defense than Alabama. But they are both explosively fast, powerful and disruptive.”

LSU was viewed as a contender for making the college football playoffs in its freshman year under coaching Brian Kelly until his loss to Texas A&M. The loss put the Tigers on a five-game winning streak, conquering Florida, Ole Miss, Alabama, Arkansas and UAB before stumbling against the Aggies.

“Yeah, we didn’t have a plaque in our team room that said SEC West Championship,” Kelly said as he assessed LSU’s regular season. “Our board was about a standard and getting to that standard, building better habits, how we thought, how we prepared. It was much more about a process than specific goals.

“I’d be lying if I told you that was or wasn’t one of them because it really wasn’t even really part of our thought process. It was really about getting our guys to live up to a standard that we set in the program. That’s generally what most first-year coaches look for. They don’t think so much about results.”

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Kick-off for Saturday’s SEC championship game between Georgia (12-0) and LSU (9-3) is scheduled for 4:00 p.m. ET at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

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