LSU Star Harold Perkins Will Not Play the “Star” Position in Blake Baker’s Defense, Moving to Inside Linebacker for 2024, Kelly Says

Position Changes for some Offensive Linemen, Freshman DE and possibly more Expected in Spring Practice to Shore Up Depleted Defensive Line, Plus What Kelly Expects from Garrett Nussmeier in 2024

Harold Perkins
Harold Perkins pressured the Grambling quarterbacks by lining up outside often on Saturday night. PHOTO by Michael Bacigalupi

Brian Kelly says that Harold Perkins, LSU’s First-Team All-SEC linebacker, will play inside linebacker next season according to a report from The Advocate.

Perkins started last season at inside linebacker, but the move only lasted for one game before he was moved back to outside linebacker for the remainder of the year. Kelly told The Advocate that he still believes Perkins can play inside linebacker and he will be starting there next season.

“He needs to be in the action,” Kelly said in an interview with The Advocate. “He needs to be the (weakside) linebacker. He needs to be in the box. He needs to be active in there. That’s where he’s going to start, and we’ve got to get him ready at that position.”

Perkins struggled in his one game at inside linebacker last season. LSU dropped the game 45-24 to Florida State and Perkins failed to impact the game. He finished with five tackles and did not record a sack or a quarterback hurry against the Seminoles.

LSU’s new defensive coordinator Blake Baker helped develop Missouri linebacker Ty’Ron Hopper into a Butkus Award finalist last season and will attempt to have a similar impact on Perkins this season.

The position Perkins played last season is called the Star in Baker’s scheme. The position is normally played by defensive backs in Baker’s scheme and takes the place of a strongside linebacker in some packages.

The Star is like a nickel corner but with a few different responsibilities. The Star usually plays underneath zones and covers slot receivers, something Perkins did last season for LSU.

“He could cover a little bit,” Kelly said. “You don’t want him playing the slot man-to-man, but he could get out there and cover. He could blitz off the edge. In Blake’s defense, that’s what the Star does. But that’s not really where we want Harold to be.”

Baker’s defense last season finished in the top 20 in sacks and tackles for loss and focused on putting pressure on opposing offenses. The aggressive style of play might allow Perkins to reach his full potential as an inside linebacker.

Kelly said he expects Perkins to play as an inside linebacker in the NFL because he lacks the size to play as an edge rusher. The move will allow him to prepare for his future and provide more of an impact for LSU’s defense.

“Whether it was scheme or whether it was our inability to get him to where we wanted him, he needs to be more involved in the linebacker fits inside,” Kelly told The Advocate. “That’s going to get him ready for the next level. It’s going to make us a better defense.”

Kelly also told The Advocate that 6-foot-4, 310-pound offensive lineman Kimo Makane’ole is making the move to defensive tackle during spring practices.

Makane’ole is a redshirt sophomore from Florida and is entering his fourth season at LSU. He appeared in nine games over the last two seasons.

Kelly said freshman defensive end Ahmad Breaux will likely take snaps on the interior defensive line as well. Breaux was a three-star edge rusher from Ruston, Louisiana.

Kelly first hinted that he wasn’t happy with LSU’s defensive tackle depth and that he could move players around earlier this month on National Signing Day.

“We still have some needs,” Kelly said. “The defensive tackle position is one that we’re still vetting. We have some needs that we’ll continue to look at moving forward going into the spring. We could have some other movement here.”

Kelly also told The Advocate that cornerback Zy Alexander will miss all of spring training but will return in the summer after suffering a torn ACL last season.

Alexander transferred to LSU from Southeastern Louisiana last year and started eight games before he hurt his knee returning an interception in LSU’s 62-0 win over Army. He’s the only player that will miss spring practice with an injury.  

On the offensive side of the ball Kelly told The Advocate his expectations for starting quarterback Garret Nussmeier. He said he wants Nussmeier to show more consistency and eliminate the plays where he tries to make too much happen.

Nussmeier has thrown seven interceptions in just 219 career attempts and completed only 58.9% of his passes.

In his first career start Nussmeier led LSU to a win in the ReliaQuest Bowl over Wisconsin thanks to a last-minute touchdown drive that went 98 yards. He finished the game with three touchdowns, one interception, 395 passing yards and completed 68.9% of his passes.

LSU will start spring practice on March 5 and will have 15 practices before the spring game on April 13.

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