The days of only upperclassmen are over. If a player is good enough early on, that player will be seeing the field. Case in point, just look at the LSU Tigers this past Saturday night. Some of the best players on the field were freshman, especially for LSU.
In particular, two LSU freshmen rose to the challenge and were not afraid of the spotlight in the biggest SEC West matchup of the season between two top ten ranked programs. Because of their heroics, both were honored with SEC Player of the Week honors.
The first is freshman linebacker Harold Perkins. The five star prospect coming out of Cypress, Texas set the tone early for the Tigers defensively. Defensive coordinator Matt House had an outstanding game plan of putting Perkins in many different positions. Whether he was coming off the edge, coming in on a stunt, coming in from the middle, or dropping back in coverage, House did a masterful job in making sure that Alabama quarterback Bryce Young was aware of number 40 at all times, and his talents were on full display, especially in the first half. Perkins set a career high in tackles with eight while also having three quarterback hurries, a PBU, and a crucial sack on third down and five at the Tigers’ six yard line. The rising star’s career best performance earned him SEC Defensive Player of The Week honors.
LSU head coach Brian Kelly describes Harold Perkins as an old fashioned throwback player.
” I think, quite honestly, he has the makeup to do that. He is a mature kid. I was talking to a couple of our coaches about him. He is a bit of a throwback, and a throwback in this sense. Just tell me what I need to do. I don’t need all the other things and I’ll figure it out as I go.”
“It’s kind of refreshing. He doesn’t need to know all the whys. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t give the whys to our guys, and that’s part of coaching today. You’ve got explain a lot of things.”
He doesn’t need a lot of the whys. Just point me in the right direction; I’ll figure it out. That’s Harold Perkins. He knows he is not perfect, but he makes up for a lot of those things with his athletic ability.”LSU Head Coach Brian Kelly on Harold Perkins
As good as a performance Harold Perkins had in possibly being the most dominant player on the field for the Tigers defense, it still may get overshadowed by another standout freshman’s performance on the offensive side of the football with that player being Mason Taylor.
The son of former NFL Defensive Player of the Year Jason Taylor showed off the family genes on Saturday and came through in the clutchest moments of the game. Mason Taylor was named SEC Freshman of the Week because of the big plays he was able to make at the most critical times. The first play came when LSU was trailing 21-17 late in the fourth quarter as Taylor caught a seven yard touchdown pass from Jayden Daniels to give his team a 24-21 lead with 1:47 left to play in the game. The second play will go down into LSU Football lore.
After Jayden Daniels had a 25 yard touchdown run to pull the Tigers within one at 31-30 in overtime, Kelly decided to go for two and the win. In the biggest play of the season, whose number got called upon? It was the freshman Mason Taylor. Daniels rolled to his right and found Taylor who fell back into the end zone for the winning score. The game winning two point conversion caused a roar so loud in Tiger Stadium that it set off the seismograph and had the fans storming the field.
The fact that in the biggest play of the season and with control of the SEC West on the line that the Tigers went to a freshman spoke volumes about how much they trust Mason Taylor making that play.
“So there’s been growth physically and mentally. He is a freshman. As you know, freshmen are growing physically, and the first big thing is he has put on over 20 pounds physically and growing into his body.”
“I think the growth from a mental standpoint has been the knowledge of the game. You know, he has been really good. I would be remiss to not point out the fact that he has been put in a very difficult position where a tight end has to do a lot.”Brian Kelly on Mason Taylor’s progress
It is safe to say that the future is definitely bright for the LSU Tigers’ football program considering that some of the best players on the field are freshman.
Having players like Mason Taylor, Harold Perkins and even both tackles Will Campbell and Emery Jones stepping up at big impact positions sends a positive message about how much this coaching staff believes in this young talent on the field while also making recruits very excited to know that if they trust the process and buy into what this coaching staff wants them to do, then, they could step up in big moments as early as year one on the playing field just like what Harold Perkins and Mason Taylor did Saturday night.