Georgia was also aware of Perkins, but never got her way.
“We were aware of him, we evaluated him,” said Georgia coach Kirby Smart on Sunday. “He was probably one of the most talented linebackers to come on tape this season. He proved that. He is extremely explosive, athletic. They use his skills very well.”
Like most newcomers, Perkins got off to a slow start. But as the Tigers got deeper into the season and Perkins became more comfortable with defensive coordinator Matt House’s playbook, they began to push him around. Mid-season, they would field him sometimes as an inside linebacker and occasionally outside over a slotback in a rover role.
Going into Saturday’s game, Perkins leads the Tigers with 6.5 sacks, 14 quarterback hurries, 10 tackles for loss and 59 total tackles. He is at his best in obvious passing down situations.
“He’s very, very talented,” said LSU coach Brian Kelly. “But he has to bring his qualities and talent together. If he brings both, he is an elite and special player.”
Texas A&M was able to effectively neutralize LSU’s passing rush just by letting the football run. Running back Devon Achane rushed for a career-high 215 yards and 2 touchdowns. Perkins had just two tackles and one tackle for loss – and zero sacks – in that stunning 38-23 loss at College Station last week.
Leading football is something Georgia has been doing better in recent weeks. The Bulldogs ran for 268 yards in a 37-14 win over Georgia Tech last Saturday. This was the second straight game they rushed for 200 yards or more and sixth of the season.
Meanwhile, Georgia has been solid, if not exemplary, on offense this season. This unit was named a semi-finalist for the Joe Moore Award, which goes annually to the nation’s top group. Led by tackles Warren McClendon and Broderick Jones, the Bulldogs have conceded just 7 sacks all year. That’s just .58 per game and ties them with Georgia Southern and Washington for second-best in FBS football.
Oregon is the first. Like the Ducks with quarterback Bo Nix, the Bulldogs are led by a mobile quarterback in senior Stetson Bennett. But keeping the defense of the opponent’s defense in the run-pass conflict is one of Georgia’s main offensive weapons.
Kelly gives Bennett a lot of credit for the Bulldogs’ offensive success.
“Remarkable. He’s ready,” Kelly said Sunday night. “The confidence in the film in terms of what he exudes is amazing. I think he’s about 26-3 as a starter. He’s in full command of offense , full command. That of course applies to his coaching, his teaching, his preparation.”
Georgia hasn’t seen a pass rusher as prolific as Perkins since they faced Alabama and All-American Will Anderson in the College Football Playoff championship game in January. Anderson had just four tackles and zero sacks. However, his counterpart on the other side of the line, Dallas Turner, recorded two.
“Different players,” Smart said of Anderson and Perkins. “They use them in different ways. I have a slightly different defense than what Alabama used. But they are both explosively fast, powerful and disruptive.”