clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

LSU Football 2023 Position Preview: Linebackers

Harold Perkins is coming to kill your quarterback

Ole Miss v LSU Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Before starting this year’s linebacker preview, I wanted to look back at what I said about last year’s group. I said the unit was a “promising but unproven group” and boy oh boy did one young man in particular ever deliver upon that promise.

2023 LSU Linebackers

Player Height/Weight Tackles TFLs Sacks Miscellaneous
Player Height/Weight Tackles TFLs Sacks Miscellaneous
1 Omar Speights (Sr.)* 6'1"/235 83 8 0 FIrst Team All-Pac 12
4 Harold Perkins (Soph.) 6'1"/220 72 13 7.5 4 FF, 3 PD, 1 INT; First-Team All-SEC, Freshman All-American; possibly an alien or a demigod
30 Greg Penn III 6'2"/235 78 6 0 Started all 14 games, second in tackles
33 West Weeks 6'2"/238 28 3 1.5 1 FF, older brother of Whit Weeks
40 Whit Weeks 6'3"/217 Four-star freshman Younger brother of West Weeks
44 Christian Brathwaite 6'1"/204 Three-star freshman

We’re running out of words to describe the kind of season Harold Perkins had. Max has written a couple of thousand words about him and all that still doesn’t seem like enough. Perkins is a man without hyperbole: did he have the best freshman season in LSU history? Is he already the best pure pass rusher in LSU history? Could he leave as the best linebacker in LSU history? If he has two more seasons like the one he just had—and there’s no reason to suggest he won’t get better—then it’s all totally in play.

The coaching staff seemed like they want to make Perkins a true middle linebacker, but Max wrote an excellent feature arguing against that and instead let him do what he does best: hunt QBs. And this tweet by LSU recruiting specialist Sherman Wilson might hint that Perkins will take BJ Ojulari’s spot.

If the staff has had a change of heart, the answer to who plays in the middle is already on the roster: Greg Penn and Oregon State transfer Omar Speights.

Penn enters his third year with the Tigers after really coming on strong as a sophomore in 2022. Penn started all 14 games and was second on the team in tackles. Perkins stole Penn’s shine in the Arkansas game—a four sack game’ll do that—but Penn quietly had the best game of his career that afternoon: 10 tackles, 2.5 for loss, and was even credited with a pass breakup. Hopefully the two of them will combine for more big games like that this fall.

Speights could be a sneaky great transfer portal addition for Brian Kelly and staff. Speights helped Oregon State have the best defense in the Pac-12 in terms of total defense and rushing defense. You’ll only have Speights for this season, but he ought to fill the void left behind by Micah Baskerville. Plus he’s wearing #1 which is just a sick number for a middle linebacker.

LSU is a little thin in the linebacker department, especially in the true middle LB variety. The Tigers lost DeMario Tolan to Auburn via the transfer portal, though Tolan left Auburn recently after a tragedy in the family. Kolbe Fields, who primarily played special teams, also transferred.

If Speights and Penn are your two middle linebackers, I’d imagine the Weeks brothers, West and Whit are the next two up. West is in his second year after transferring from Virginia and another year removed from a broken leg. He had a season-best six tackles in the bowl win over Purdue.

Whit Weeks is the younger brother of West and a true freshman. The coaching staff apparently loves the kid, so expect him to be LSU’s man in the middle possibly as early as next year. Per 247, Weeks was a top-100 overall prospect, and a top-10 linebacker in this past recruiting cycle. And yes I’m absolutely going to get those two mixed up for as long as they’re here.

Fellow true freshman linebacker Christian Brathwaite isn’t quite as highly touted coming out of high school. Brathwaite was someone the coaching staff got in on late, as LSU didn’t offer till the end of October. But the offer was clearly enticing enough as he backed off his commitment to Baylor and pledged to LSU the very next day. His projection on 247 is a “eventual quality starter” so I wouldn’t expect to see him take meaningful reps until 2025.