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Meet the New Illini: Nicario Harper



Sep 24, 2022; Louisville, Kentucky, USA; Louisville Cardinals defensive back Chandler Jones (2) celebrates an interception with Nicario Harper (21) during the second quarter against the South Florida Bulls at Cardinal Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

Meet one of the newest members of the Fighting Illini, Nicario Harper.

On December 3rd, Illinois football landed a grad transfer that will hopefully help their defensive efforts next year. Nicario Harper, decided to spend his last year of eligibilty with the Illini after spending time at Southern Miss, Jacksonville State and Louisville. His time at the power five level was limited. Harper played only 38 snaps in 4 games this past year at Louisville and barely made an impact. Despite this, the hope is that his experience will be valuable for the Illini.

Prior to Louisville

Prior to transferring to Louisville, Harper spent two seasons at Jacksonville State. After the 2020-21 season, Harper was an AP FCS All-American.  Despite an injury during the season, Harper was still able to record over 50 tackles and 2 interceptions. Harper will definitely bring some sort of experience to a secondary to a team that loses Sydney Brown, Quan Martin, Devon Witherspoon and Kendall Smith.

So Why is this news?

The reason this is news is because of recent trend of safeties at Illinois. Kerby Joseph and Kendall Smith were two rarely used wide receivers for Lovie Smith. Once put in the safety role in Bret Bielema and crew’s defense, Joseph elevated himself to being a starter in the NFL. Smith was able to have an extremely productive season as well. Not to mention what Devon Witherspoon, Sydney Brown and Quan Martin were able to do to their draft stocks as well.

If the trend continues, look for Harper to play a major role in this Illinois defense. He at least brings a lot of experience and versatility to a defense that lost quite a lot in the back seven. The front line is intact for a successful run on defense, so hopefully the back seven can hold up their end.

And no, I refuse to give credit to the current head coach at Purdue.


Alex is the Owner of, your go-to source for in depth coverage of the Illinois Fighting Illini. Alex is also the lead content creator and lead editor of all articles on Armchair Illini. He has had articles featured in top media publications like Bleacher Report, YardBarker, Verbal Commits, CBS Sports and more.