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Harold Perkins avoided Aggies for Tigers

COLLEGE STATION — Linebacker Harold Perkins vowed in part to Texas A&M in January to stay closer to his birthplace in Cypress. However, he signed with LSU in February to play partially closer to his birthplace.

Perkins’ family left New Orleans for Houston after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 when he was a toddler, and now he’s playing in college about 80 miles from his roots.

Perkins, who is second in the Southeastern Conference with eight sacks, will show Aggies up close and far too personally what they’ve been missing as LSU’s No. 5 plays at A&M Saturday night — perhaps making for a tough season for the Aggies even more robust.

“Harold is very talented, we knew that,” said A&M coach Jimbo Fisher of the Cypress Park High freshman who has quickly become one of the best defensemen in the nation. “As great as he is on defense, if you watched him in high school, you could argue that he was as great an offensive player as he was a defensive player…he averaged (12) yards per carry.

“He was a really good basketball player (at Cy Park), you could just see a natural athlete.”

The Aggies (4-7, 1-6 SEC) also needed big help as a linebacker in 2022, and Fisher and his staff thought help was coming soon when five-star recruit Perkins was signed to A&M during the Under Armor All -Americas game in Orlando, Florida on January 2nd.

Perkins said around the same time he was visiting with other senior promises in the A&M class.

“We talked about A&M could be a powerhouse very soon,” Perkins told 247Sports.com during the recruitment process. “(Like) when everything goes the way it’s supposed to go, they have all the parts in place.”

It hasn’t gone how A&M had hoped it would go with Perkins, although the Aggies still sign the nation’s top-rated class in 2022 with eight other five-star prospects.

“He’s a very intelligent young man and a highly recruited guy who … we’ve been dating for a long time,” Fisher said. “He’s just one of those who got away.”

Fisher’s “one who got away” confession was reminiscent of when then-A&M coach RC Slocum said the Aggies had simply “failed” in their assessment of Austin Westlake High quarterback Drew Brees in the 1990s.

“If A&M had offered me a scholarship,” Brees once said, “I would have gone there immediately.”

Brees set records at Purdue and won a Super Bowl with the New Orleans Saints. A big difference from the youngest recruit who ‘escaped’ is that the Aggies wanted Perkins badly – and it’s become particularly clear in recent weeks why.

Perkins loaded his fellow Tigers on his shoulders and forced LSU (9-2, 6-1) to a 13-10 win in Arkansas on Nov. 12 to keep their hopes of reaching the four-team college football playoffs alive receive. Perkins set an LSU single-game record with four sacks and also forced two fumbles on the rim of the Razorbacks.

“Sometimes you have such a great player and you don’t put him to good use,” said LSU freshman coach Brian Kelly of Perkins’ dependable ability a year after Cy Park. “Our staff … did a great job using him to make an impact like he did in Arkansas. He was all over the field.”

Kelly said Perkins came to Baton Rouge, La., with the idea that he would be a best fit at center back, but his playing ability and athleticism led him to move outside and built the Tigers defense around Perkins – quite an achievement for a true novice.

“We realized early on that it would take longer to get him (as a centre-back) into the rotation on the field,” Kelly said. “So we moved him to an outside linebacker position which we felt was more suitable for him to pick up what we wanted because we could put him in different packages – third down packages, nickel packages, dime packets.

“As it progressed to where he was making plays and being productive, we had to get to the point where we had a base defense with him on the field.”

The Tigers have won five straight games, with their only setbacks this season against Florida State in openers in New Orleans (24-23) and at home against Tennessee (40-13) on Oct. 8. LSU must beat A&M and then Georgia in the SEC title game in Atlanta, Georgia on December 3 to have a solid shot at the CFP.

Perkins has championed national defensive player of the year by guiding the surprising Tigers into the top five in the CFP rankings with one regular season game left – at the program he left at the altar in February.

“It’s a bit of a flashback in a sense, ‘Just tell me what to do — I don’t need all the other things and I’ll find out in time,'” Kelly said of Perkins’ uncluttered approach to it game defense. “It’s kind of refreshing.”

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