LSU Tigers: Top 5 defensive players to watch for in 2023

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BATON ROUGE, LOUISIANA – OCTOBER 22: Harold Perkins Jr. #40 of the LSU Tigers reacts after sacking Jaxson Dart #2 of the Mississippi Rebels during the first half at Tiger Stadium on October 22, 2022 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

No. 1 – Harold Perkins Jr., Linebacker

Much like our top offensive player to watch for, the top defensive player surprises no one. Harold Perkins Jr. is the number one LSU Tigers defensive player to watch for in 2023.

As a true freshman, Perkins was one of the best college football defenders. He gains another offseason with Brian Kelly and Matt House to perfect the scheme and grow as a linebacker.

It’s hard not to get excited when thinking about how great Perkins can be in 2023. The linebacker took college football by storm as a true freshman last season. Perkins pieced together a few solid non-conference games, but Kelly and House realized they had a star on their hands in late October.

Perkins tallied five tackles and a sack on October 22 against Ole Miss. The performance earned Lane Kiffin’s praise. “They started playing 40 [Harold Perkins] more, which we thought they’d eventually do because he doesn’t look like anybody else out there,” said the Rebels head coach.

Kiffin’s statement sums up Harold Perkins.

Perkins is a one-person wrecking crew who can completely shut down opposing offenses by making big plays in crucial situations. He finished his true freshman season with 72 tackles, 7.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, and an interception.

Moreover, Perkins’ ability to rush the passer and drop into coverage makes him one of the most versatile defenders in college football. He has the strength and quickness to come off the edge while also having the speed to cover backs and tight ends in the open field.

His best game was a defensive battle against Arkansas in sub-freezing Fayetteville temperatures. Perkins completely shut down the Razorbacks’ offense recording eight tackles, three sacks, and two forced fumbles. He should have tied the school record with four sacks in the game, but the NCAA changed his final strip-sack to only a forced fumble after the game.

Against Georgia, Perkins still found a way to shine despite the defense surrendering 50 points. He notched a career-high ten tackles in the SEC championship game against the eventual national champions and tacked on another forced fumble.

Perkins wore No. 40 last season, reminiscent of former LSU Tigers great Devin White. However, LSU Football reported that Perkins changed his number to No. 4 for the 2023-24 season. The trend could continue next year, as Perkins, a Louisiana native, could find himself in No. 7 in his junior season.

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