Paul Perkins: UCLA’s Most Important Weapon not Named Brett Hundley


Oct 18, 2014; Berkeley, CA, USA; UCLA Bruins running back Paul Perkins (24) runs the ball against the California Golden Bears in the first quarter at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Duke Johnson, Devontae Booker, Royce Freeman. Any of those names ring a bell? What about Todd Gurley? All four are solid, if not outstanding running backs who, more than running skills, have one thing in common. They have all amassed less rushing yards this season than UCLA’s Paul Perkins. Check every FBS Division 1-A school in the nation — you’ll find only 14 backs who have more yards thus far than Perkins’ 813. Heisman contender Ameer Abdullah only averages 0.1 yards per carry more, and Nebraska hasn’t played the toughest of schedules — though it hasn’t been easy either. Perkins even shows up in big game situations — rushing for 137 (9.8 YPC) and 187 (8.9 YPC) against ASU and Oregon, respectively.

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Since getting the bulk of UCLA’s carries in week two against Memphis, the task of opening up the offense has been on his shoulders. That’s right, the offense hinges on Perkins, not Hundley. With a strong running game, only then can the Bruins utilize their passing game — and Perkins even plays a role in that. Dynamic out of the backfield on field-stretching passes, Perkins forces corners to key up on screen routes. This allows Hundley to play to his strengths, quickly setting his feet and firing bullets to his receivers for the highest completion percentage (72.5%) in college football.

But more than all that, it is Perkins’ traits that set him apart. At 5 foot 11 inches and 200 lbs, Perkins can break tackles if need be — but he is far from slow. At the same height and weight as NFL star Jamaal Charles, its not hard to see how Perkins prototypical body has him set for success. Unlike Charles, however, Perkins has remained healthy throughout the majority of his career. His combination of strength, speed, and nifty weight shifting gives the Bruins a multitude of options when calling plays for him. Ball security isn’t a problem, with #24 losing only one fumble through seven games this season. Stuff those traits into an guy who understands the game and has great awareness of the circumstances at hand, and you’ve found yourself not only quite the back to carry the rushing load, but quite the man to lead a team to their potential.