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Notre Dame Football

Film Don't Lie | Safety/Nickel transfer Thomas Harper

January 6, 2023

Notre Dame has some questions at safety heading into next season. With Brandon Joseph, DJ Brown, and Houston Griffith gone, the only two players with experience returning are Xavier Watts and Ramon Henderson. Behind them on the depth chart will be players without experience playing safety at the college level.

Notre Dame found some help at safety with the transfer of Thomas Harper. A player who could also compete at the nickel with TaRiq Bracy off to the NFL, Harper is a valuable pick up that could help at two positions.

What he can do

Though he was a safety at Oklahoma State, they played a three safety defense. That’s pretty standard for the Big 12. Those safeties have to do a bit of everything and he would line up in the box, in the deep middle, and in the slot as essentially a nickel player.

He had 259 snaps in the slot last season.

Though Harper is small (5’11” 185), he’s physical and attacks aggressively versus the run. So much of college football is played on the perimeter these days and he’s very good there.


He’s good at running the alley and activates quickly.


Though he was not used as a blitzer in Derek Mason’s defense, he did more of it under Jim Knowles and flashed some ability doing it. Here he is sticking with it on a sack and strip of some Caleb Williams guy that I’m posting for no specific reason.


What he’s not

In terms of what Notre Dame will be missing with the absence of Bracy, I think he could help replace a lot of the perimeter defense against the screen game. In terms of being a man coverage corner on top slot receivers, I didn’t see enough of him to be convinced he can handle that part of it.

That doesn’t mean he can’t do it, it just means in the three games I watched, he wasn’t locking anyone down when in press and wasn’t really challenged in off-coverage. Even his interception against Baylor, he was trailing on that play and it was a bad ball by the quarterback.

One thing that made Bracy so good is that he played small in a good way. He used his quickness, recognition, and stature to slip blocks. He also got better with his hands in block destruction this past season.

Harper can get engulfed by blockers who are bigger than him and unless he gets better at defeating blocks, he has to have great recognition to make up for it.

Where he fits for Notre Dame I like him as someone who can immediately jump into the two-deep at safety and provide some competition there and he should be competing for the starting nickel job as well. He has the traits to succeed there if he’s working there full-time.

Adding him should ignite the competition at those two spots

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