Even though Tech has lost two straight games, there have been some positives to take away from the last two weeks. This year’s offense is averaging more total yards per game than any other offense in Coach Paul Johnson’s tenure at Tech, and a key contributor has been A-back Charles Perkins.
After redshirting as a true freshman and rushing for only 95 yards in the following year, the 6-foot, 205 pound redshirt senior from Lawrenceville was slotted to be the starting B-back at the beginning of his sophomore season.
An unfortunate shoulder injury ended his season after just two games, but Perkins returned as an A-back and played in all 13 games last year during his junior season.
Now playing his final season on the Flats, Perkins explains what it’s like to finally be completely healthy.
“It feels great,” Perkins said. “Being healthy is the number one thing in football. You’re a different player out there when you’re healthy.”
Perkins is indeed a different player now that he’s healthy: the Collins Hill High School graduate leads a deep crew of A-backs in rushing yards and has already established career highs in rushing yards, yards per carry, and longest rush. Despite his success, he doesn’t want to take credit away from any of his teammates on offense.
“I’m just all about the team, whatever [head coach] Coach [Paul] Johnson or [A-backs] Coach [Lamar] Owens has me doing, whatever I can do to help the team, that’s what I’m about” Perkins said. “Whether it’s a couple of carries and mainly blocking or a lot of carries and little blocking, I’m cool with whatever. As long as we’re getting the win, that’s all that matters.”
Adding to his mentality of a team player, Perkins acknowledges that he has taken on more of a leadership role on the team, though he has always been “a vocal guy, on and off the field.”
He is also quick to credit his teammates for the offensive success they’ve enjoyed this year, especially quarterback Justin Thomas.
“Justin is playing really well, he’s getting great reads.” Perkins said. “The offensive line, with Shaq Mason, too, it all starts up front. Everybody’s rolling and limiting turnovers; we’re really keeping it going by bringing the energy every play, and that’s helping a lot.”
The offense will face a tough test in Pittsburgh this Saturday, as the Panthers’ defense ranks in the top 10 in total yards allowed and allows less than 19 points per game. Pittsburgh did lose star defensive tackle Aaron Donald to the NFL but feature mainly returning players on their stingy defense. Perkins isn’t letting that faze him, though.
“We just have to execute,” Perkins said. “Limit the mistakes and execute on every drive.”
The numbers support his statement: in each of Tech’s five wins, the Jackets were either neutral or ahead in turnover differential. However, Tech could only muster a combined -3 differential between its two losses.
When asked about the morale of the team after back-to-back losses to ACC rivals, Perkins explained why team morale is just as high as when Tech was 5-0. The nature of the losses (both close games) has motivated the team rather than dampen its mood.
Perkins said, “When all is said and done, we’re still just a couple of plays away from being undefeated.”
The A-back cites Justin Thomas’s leadership as an important influence.
“Justin’s a great leader,” Perkins said. “You might not see it a lot, but he’s a great leader by example. He isn’t someone who gets down on himself. We call him ‘Smooth’ for a reason: he stays calm throughout.”
Outside of football, the business major graduated this past May and has been interning at Kraft Foods, where he will be working full-time after finishing up at Tech. But before then, he’s planning to enjoy every moment that he can and wants to leave it all on the field every game.
Perkins has a message for the fans as well.
“Keep coming out and supporting us,” Perkins said. “Stay with us. It’s a long season, not everybody goes undefeated. You would love to, but there’s still a lot to play for.”
There certainly is a lot left to play for, with Homecoming against Virginia, an ACC showdown against the resurgent North Carolina State Wolfpack, Clemson at home for the first time since 2011 on Senior Night, and the annual Georgia game.
Perkins, along with the rest of the A-back corps, will surely have a significant impact on how the Jackets perform down the stretch. In order for the team to reach double-digit wins for the first time since 2009, they will have to see exceptional performances from Perkins and the rest of the running game against some tough defenses.