A model of consistency throughout his career, Harper became known for his bone-jarring tackles with the Crimson Tide. He started his final 38 games at Alabama, ranking second among defensive backs and sixth overall on the school's career-record list with 302 tackles.
At Prattville High School, Harper played quarterback and free safety his senior season. On defense, he finished the season with 58 tackles and four interceptions in limited playing time due to a broken leg. As a quarterback, he accounted for more than 800 yards of offense and 13 touchdowns. He was an All-County, All-Metro and Birmingham News All-State pick. Prattville finished 9-2 on the season. Harper was offensive MVP for the Lions and was also voted team captain.
Harper redshirted in 2001 at Alabama. He appeared in every game as a reserve free safety in 2002, pacing the team's second unit defenders with 42 tackles (27 solos) with a pair of sacks, a fumble recovery and a pair of forced fumbles. Harper started every game at strong safety in 2003. He registered 114 tackles (79 solos) with an interception and fumble recovery. He joined linebackers Derrick Pope (105) and DeMeco Ryans (126) in becoming the first trio in school history to each record more than 100 tackles in the same season.
Harper earned All-Southeastern Conference second-team honors in 2004. He collected 77 tackles (45 solos) with a sack, seven stops for losses, three interceptions and four pass breakups after moving to free safety. He also caused a fumble and recovered two others. Harper elevated his play in 2005, picking up first-team All-SEC recognition. He led a unit that ranked first in scoring defense (10.67 ppg) and fifth in pass defense (160.75 ypg), as he was in on 69 tackles (38 solos), including nine stops behind the line of scrimmage, an interception and two forced fumbles.
Harper played in 49 games for Alabama, starting his final 38. He ranks sixth in school history with 302 tackles (189 solos), adding 3.5 sacks for minus-28 yards and 19 stops for losses of 56 yards. He intercepted five passes for 76 yards in returns and had fifteen pass deflections. He was credited with six quarterback pressures while causing five fumbles and recovering four others.
Positives: Has a muscular, linear frame with smooth upper body development, good bubble and hamstrings
Physical downhill performer with the strength to defeat blocks working along the line
Shows good field awareness keeping plays in front of him when working in the zone
Plays with good leverage, generating good pop on contact
Has good balance playing in space and uses his hands effectively to play off blocks
Has a good feel for handling switch-offs in the zone and does a good job of picking up the slot receiver playing underneath
Gets a good jump on the ball with his ability to properly read the quarterback
Has enough range to accelerate to the ball, compensating for a lack of blazing speed by taking good angles to shorten his closing burst
Makes plays on the ball with his natural hands and does a good job of getting his head turned to track the ball in flight
Fills the rush lanes with good urgency, doing a nice job of slipping off blocks and sifting through trash to locate the ball
Brings his arms and keeps his feet, generating the strength behind his hits to wrap and secure.
Negatives: Better playing in the zone, where he can keep plays in front of him rather than in man coverage
Has just adequate hip snap to turn coming out of his pedal, but is too high in his stance to generate immediate acceleration coming out of his breaks
Lacks explosive closing speed, compensating by taking proper angles to close
Controlled and physical tackler, but does not have the hand strength to match up and reroute bigger tight ends
Does not have the recovery burst to get back into the action once beaten on pass routes.
Harper is a productive athlete with valid instincts and above average ball anticipation skills. He compensates for a lack of ideal foot speed with the range and ability to take proper angles in attempts to close on the ball. He is a physical tackler with good urgency stepping up to support vs. the run. He shows good hand activity to defeat blocks and has enough functional strength to fill the alleys.
Harper's lack of burst and speed makes him a bit of a liability in man coverage. He lacks the ability to fly around, but he comes up quickly, and routinely puts himself in position to make plays. Harper is sound, but not fast in short area pass coverage. He gets good position in the zone and can run with a tight end, but is unable to run deep with a receiver. He trails well though and is capable of taking away easy throws.
When taking on ballcarriers, he squares up, and though not always a wrapper, he will strike with force and is a reliable tackler. He sorts out combination routes well and has good route recognition, taking good angles on the ball. He lacks an explosive closing burst though.
Harper gets too high in his backpedal, and though smooth in his turn, he lacks the speed to recover deep, but shows good range to the sideline. He is worth a look as an athlete who will play smart and has the toughness to contribute on special teams, but is a step too slow to develop into a starter.
Ranks sixth in school history with 302 tackles, topped only by Wayne Davis (327, 1983-86), Thomas Boyd (324, 1979-82), Woodrow Lowe (315, 1972-75), DeMeco Ryans (307, 2002-05) and Marcus Spencer (303, 1997-00).
All-Southeastern Conference first-team selection
Semi-finalist for the Thorpe Award (nation's top defensive back)
Paced a squad that led the nation in scoring defense (10.67 ppg), ranked fifth in pass defense (160.75 ypg) and pass efficiency defense (97.92 rating) and second in total defense (255.08 ypg)
Started every game at free safety, recording 69 tackles (38 solos)
Had an assisted sack for minus 2 yards, nine stops for losses of 11 yards and two forced fumbles
Returned an interception 50 yards and deflected two passes.
|2005 Game Analysis|
Opened the season with five tackles (4 solos).
Had another five hits and assisted defensive end Mark Anderson in sacking QB Dustin Almond for a 5-yard loss early in the first quarter.
Posted six tackles (5 solos), including one that stopped slot back Daccus Turman for a 1-yard loss on a first-and-goal play in the first quarter.
Added seven tackles (2 solos) and deflected one pass.
Followed with an eight-tackle (6 solos) performance.
Was in on six tackles with 1.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage, teaming with defensive end Mark Anderson to take down tailback Mico McSwain for a 4-yard loss in the third quarter.
Totaled six tackles, joining defensive end Keith Saunders in stopping tailback Gerald Riggs Jr. for a 2-yard loss on a third-and-11 play late in the first quarter
Caused a fumble when he tackled Adrian Foster on a 2-yard run at the start of the fourth quarter, but the ball was recovered by Vols' offensive linemen Rich Gandy
Later in the quarter, on a third-and-goal play, QB Rick Clausen tossed an 11-yard screen pass to Cory Anderson, but Harper torpedoed the receiver, causing a fumble that Alabama recovered in the end zone for a touchback, setting up a scoring drive that was capped by Tide kicker Jamie Christensen's game-winning 34-yard field goal with 0:13 left in a 6-3 decision
That hit on Anderson was tabbed by The Masters Coaches Survey as the "Defensive Play of the Year".
Picked off a Leon Jackson pass at the Alabama 6, returning the ball 50 yards and also made seven tackles (2 solos).
Held to two tackles, but one stopped tailback Jerious Norwood for a 1-yard loss on a third-and-14 pass from QB Omarr Conner in the third quarter.
Collected seven hits (6 solos).
Produced eight tackles (7 assists) with 2.5 stops for losses, but was penalized 10 yards for a personal foul on a 5-yard reception by tight end Cooper Wallace early in the first quarter. The penalty set up a 7-yard scoring strike from QB Brandon Cox to receiver Ben Obomanu.
Texas Tech (Cotton Bowl)
Closed out his career with a pair of tackles.
All-Southeastern Conference second-team pick
Started every game, making the move from strong safety to free safety in the spring
.Won the Lee Roy Jordan Headhunter Award
Led the secondary with 77 tackles (45 solos), including a 15-yard sack, seven stops for losses of 33 yards and one quarterback pressure
Intercepted three passes for 26 yards in returns and had four pass deflections
Recovered two fumbles and caused another
Participated in 807 plays.
|2004 Game Analysis|
Returned an interception 26 yards in the season opener.
Collected eleven tackles (6 solos) with a 15-yard sack of QB Michael Spurlock, causing a fumble on the play.
Picked off a Matt Jones pass, tackled the QB for a 1-yard loss on a bootleg and posted fourteen hits (10 solos).
Stopped tailback Demetris Summers for a 1-yard loss and delivered eight tackles (4 solos).
Tackled tailback Cedric Houston twice for losses of 3 yards and was in on seven stops (5 solos).
Recovered a fumble and made six tackles.
Minnesota (Music City Bowl)
Delivered fourteen tackles (9 solos), including one that stopped tailback Marion Barber III for a 9-yard loss and picked off a pass.
Started all year at strong safety, recording a career-high 114 tackles (79 solos)
Joined linebackers DeMeco Ryans (126) and Derrick Pope (105), as they became the first three players in school history to have 100 or more tackles in the same season
Participated in 1,016 snaps
Picked off a pass and recovered a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown
Had four pass deflections and five quarterback pressures
Earned "Bobby Johns Most Improved Defensive Back" Award.
|2003 Game Analysis|
Scooped up a loose ball from a Hawaii blocked field goal and ran it 73 yards for a touch-down
Had thirteen tackles (10 solos) vs. Northern Illinois and a career-high 17 hits (12 solos) vs. Arkansas
Posted fourteen hits (12 solos) vs. Georgia and was in on eleven stops (9 solos) vs. Mississippi
Recovered a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown, picked off a pass and posted ten tackles (8 solos) vs. Auburn.
Recognized by Tide coaches by winning the "Ozzie Newsome Most Improved Freshman" Award
Played in every game as a reserve safety, starting at the strong-side in the season finale vs. Hawaii
Recorded 42 tackles (27 solos) with two sacks for minus 11 yards and three stops for losses of 12 yards
Caused two fumbles and recovered another
Also had two pass deflections.
|2002 Game Analysis|
His first career double-figure tackle game came vs. Hawaii when he had 11
Had five tackles each vs. Mississippi and Vanderbilt
Had one sack each vs. Oklahoma (seven yards) and Vanderbilt (four yards)
Forced a fumble each vs. Vanderbilt and Hawaii.
Redshirted as a freshman.
2000: Suffered a right fibula fracture as a senior in high school.
2006: Could not participate in agility tests at the combines due to a left hamstring pull.
Campus: 4.65 in the 40-yard dash (against the wind)
4.58 40-yard dash (wind-aided)
370-pound bench press
300-pound power clean
33.5-inch vertical jump
33 -inch arm length
9 -inch hands
26/35 Wonderlic score.
Combine: Bench-pressed 225 pounds 19 times.
Did not participate in agility tests because of a left hamstring pull.
Attended Prattville (Ala.) High School, playing football for head coach Bill Clarke
Played quarterback and free safety his senior season
On defense, he finished the season with 58 tackles and four interceptions in limited playing time due to a broken leg
As a quarterback, he accounted for more than 800 yards of offense and 13 touchdowns
All-County, All-Metro and Birmingham News All-State pick
Prattville finished 9-2 on the season
Offensive MVP for the Lions and was also voted team captain.
Graduated in December 2005 with a degree in Management
Son of Princess and Ronald Harper
Resides in Prattville, Alabama.