LSU Head Coach Brian Kelly Ready To Weaponize Harold Perkins Jr. in 2024

    LSU's defense finished second to last in the SEC in total yards last season. Brian Kelly believes the key to fixing that is Harold Perkins Jr.

    Since high-tailing it from Notre Dame, Brian Kelly has had back-to-back 10-win campaigns in his first two years at the helm of the LSU Tigers. However, his defense will need to step up if he wants more after finishing second to last in the SEC in total yards last season.

    LSU has a plethora of young talent on the defensive side of the ball, but few that offer the potential and excitement that linebacker Harold Perkins Jr. does. After being a bright spot in a dim defense last season, Kelly wants to fully unleash Perkins in 2024.

    Brian Kelly Wants To Maximize Harold Perkins Jr.

    After a subpar defensive effort last season, Kelly was candid about addressing issues on that side of the ball in a recent interview with On3. On the top of his agenda list for the defense this spring is tapping into the unused potential of Perkins ahead of his junior season.

    “Well, certainly, we didn’t maximize Harold [Perkins] last year, and that’s not a knock on Harold or the coaches, ” Kelly said.

    “The reality of it is he’s an elite athlete that we have to get on track this year. So, Harold has to play better, and our coaches have to get him involved more. That’s an important piece to what we do in the spring, and certainly where he fits within our defensive structure is going to be job one for us.”

    From New Orleans, Perkins showed up in Baton Rouge ready to roll as a true freshman in 2022. He racked up 72 tackles, 13 for a loss, with 7.5 sacks, four forced fumbles, two passes defended, and an interception. He was named to the All-SEC First Team and the All-SEC True Freshman Team that year.

    Last season, he amassed 75 tackles, 13 for a loss, 5.5 sacks, five defended passes, three forced fumbles and a pick. It was another successful season for Perkins, earning All-SEC Second Team honors, but Kelly believes more could have been done to get the most out of Perkins.

    “Again, I’d think that everybody that watched last year said, ‘that’s the guy that needs to play at a higher level,'” Kelly said. “That starts with coaching, and that starts with Harold really working hard this offseason.”

    All Eyes on the LSU Defense

    Even after a 10-win season, Kelly still cleaned house on his defensive staff, firing defensive coordinator Matt House, corners coach Robert Steeples, safeties coach Kerry Cooks and defensive line coach Jimmy Lindsey. That type of overhaul fired signal flares to everyone involved that Kelly was dead-set on revamping the defense.

    “I think all eyes are effectively on the defense,” Kelly said. “That’s where we felt like we didn’t play up to the level necessary to be a playoff team, quite frankly. Our offense was, and our defense was not.”

    Kelly initially didn’t retain the services of Blake Baker when he first arrived at LSU when Baker was the co-DC and linebackers coach for the Tigers for the season in 2021. He’s since reversed course on that decision, hiring Baker away from the Missouri Tigers to replace House as DC.

    KEEP READING: LSU Takes Early Lead in 2025 SEC Recruiting Class Rankings

    “(Baker’s) ability to recruit and engage his players, and then at the end of the day have success with the guys he’s engaging with on a day-to-day basis,” Kelly said when asked why he hired Baker.

    “In my limited exposure to him when I first came on, I was able to spend some time with him, and I really liked his ability to relate to the players. That made him the right fit for me.”

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