Blue and Gold Illustrated

April 2023

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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8 APRIL 2023 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY PATRICK ENGEL T homas Harper wanted none of the frills that come with high school re- cruiting visits in his second go-round choosing a college football destination. That was fun as a teenager. Recruit- ment as a graduate transfer with one year left to play is different, though. It's all business. He wanted to help his pro stock. Notre Dame and other interested teams wanted someone they trust can help their secondary right away. In a way, recruiting grad transfers is like speed dating. Meet, see if you're a match and go from there. No wasted time or small talk. That's how Harper approached an early January trip to Notre Dame, at least. The visit ended with the Oklahoma State grad transfer committing that same day. No playing hard to get. "It was a 24-hour visit," Harper said. "I just wanted to talk ball with the coaches and get straight to the X's and O's." The Irish staff obliged. Part of their talks and Harper's evaluation of fit was watching film of a player he will help re- place: departed slot corner TaRiq Bracy. The 5-foot-11, 180-pound Harper saw a player of similar stature (Bracy is 5-foot-10, 185) running with slot re- ceivers in coverage and disrupting plays around the line of scrimmage. The latter caught Harper's eye. "I like to hit," Harper said. "I like to be physical." His Oklahoma State film shows it. He could take that physicality to Notre Dame and play the role that helped Bracy make 6 tackles for loss. "He made a lot of plays," Harper said. "The play that stood out to me was a sack versus Clemson. That was a big play in that game. I watched that game multiple times." That sack was in the fourth quarter on a second-and-2 play from the Notre Dame 15-yard line. Bracy blitzed from the slot and had a free run at Clemson quarterback DJ Uiagalelei, dropping him for a 7-yard loss. It was one of only 10 pass-rush snaps for Bracy this year. That's 10 more than Harper had in his seven 2022 games, though. When Bracy did blitz, offenses felt it. Those 10 plays resulted in 5 pressures and 1 sack. "But being able to blitz, I don't think I could show that in the past," Harper said. "I was more of a cover guy and a run-fitter. Being able to blitz and play UNDER THE DOME VERSATILE ADDITION Transfer Thomas Harper sees a fit in multiple secondary spots Harper started all seven games he played at Oklahoma State in 2022 before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury. PHOTO COURTESY OKLAHOMA STATE

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