“You always have to know where he is”

ATHENS — Georgia is used to playing Star Pass Rushers. Such is life in the SEC where Alabama has the likes of Will Anderson and the Bulldogs have Jalen Carter.

But Saturday’s challenge against Harold Perkins is a little different than what Georgia is used to.

For starters, Perkins has played well above the level of most newcomers. He is third in the conference in sacks with 7.5. He also leads LSU in the category along with 11.0 tackles for losses, two forced fumbles and one interception.

LSU moves Perkins around much like the Dallas Cowboys use Micah Parsons. Perkins can do a lot of things for this LSU defense, making it all the more difficult for the Georgia Bulldogs to know where he is in the presnap.

“You know where he is when he’s out there, right? They’re going to use him in different ways,” said Georgia coach Kirby Smart. “They’ve changed the way they use it over the year. That’s what good defensive coordinators do. They’re trying to find different ways to maybe put him in a discrepancy and take advantage of him.”

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“You have to know where he is and you have to know where he is at all times because he’s really athletic. It’s very disruptive and you bring this to the attention of your team.”

LSU goes to Perkins to do a lot of things. Georgia, if it’s hoping to limit Perkins’ influence, will want to avoid obvious pass-rushing situations where Perkins can simply be after the quarterback.

Georgia won’t change its game schedule just because of Perkins’ presence. No player is that good. Instead, Georgia will ask his offensive line to keep Perkins away from his ball carriers while tight ends like Brock Bowers will try to get him to duck for cover.

It came as no surprise to Smart or his LSU teammates that Perkins is so good so early. While Georgia didn’t recruit him heavily, Smart knew he was a talented and explosive player coming from Texas. Perkins was the highest-ranked linebacker in the 2022 recruiting cycle and the No. 9 overall player.

Teammates like BJ Ojulari saw early on in practice just how much Perkins could do for this team.

“It’s really no surprise to see him dominating SEC games,” said Ojulari, younger brother of former Georgia star Azeez Ojulari. “Just the things he can do, how he can help our defense, how instrumental he has been in defensive play.”

Perhaps the most worrying thing about Perkins is that he is not a full-fledged soccer player. He still doesn’t know exactly what he’s doing on the defensive side of the ball.

As impressive as he’s been this season, Perkins still has a higher ceiling to reach. And he had 4.0 sacks in a single game against Arkansas earlier this season.

“He’s very, very talented,” said LSU coach Brian Kelly. “But like I said, I mean it’s both: he has to bring his qualities and his talent together. If he brings both, he is an elite and special player.”

Georgia offensive tackle Warren McClendon is excited for the opportunity to join Perkins and Ojulari, who is also no problem this year with 5.0 sacks. McClendon will be spending a lot of time this week watching movies to see how LSU uses Perkins.

LSU’s defense is coming off one of its worst performances of the season as it gave up 38 points to a porous Texas A&M offense last week. However, Smart doesn’t expect a carryover to this week’s game.

And he knows Perkins is good enough to scuttle Georgia’s Sec championship plans if the Bulldogs let him.

Kirby Smart shares his thoughts on Harold Perkins

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