Harper Named DL Coach

J.C. Harper, one of the first coaches hired at Western Michigan University when head coach Gary Darnell took over seven years ago, will return to the Bronco coaching staff as defensive line coach. Harper replaces Bruce Tall, who resigned in February to accept a similar position at West Virginia.

"J.C. comes from the same system and has similar roots to several of our coaches on staff," said Darnell. "He goes about his business in the same way as we do, so there is a comfort zone with him. In other places where I have seen him work, he really earned the trust of his players with his enthusiasm and communication skills."

Harper spent the past season as defensive coordinator, assistant head coach and linebackers coach at Northwestern State in Natchitoches, La. Using an attacking 4-2-5 defensive scheme, Harper's unit ranked first in the Southland Conference in total defense (276.6), producing 42 quarterback sacks and 108 tackles for losses during the regular season. The 9-4 Demons finished 11th nationally in rushing defense (99.4 ypg) and 15th in total defense, qualifying for the NCAA Division I-AA playoffs.

Harper also worked with the NCAA's fifth-best punt return unit (14.41 ypr) and coached Roy Locks, who was named Southland Conference Defensive Player of the Year.

For two seasons (1999-2000), Harper coached the defensive line at McNeese State, helping the Cowboys earn back-to-back NCAA Division I-AA playoff berths along with a share of the 2001 Southland Conference title.

Harper's first stint with the Broncos occurred in January, 1997 when he joined Darnell's first coaching staff. Harper left before spring drills to become defensive coordinator at Southwest Missouri State for the 1998 campaign. He previously guided the defensive line at Southwest Missouri State for five seasons (1992-96).

The 37-year-old Harper (DOB: 12-13-65) began his coaching career at Notre Dame, instructing the defensive line in 1990 and tight ends in 1991 under Lou Holtz. He has coached three All-Americans in DE Jack Morrison at McNeese State, DT Mike Miano at Southwest Missouri State and Derek Brown at Notre Dame. Two of his former players, Brown and Irv Smith, were NFL first round draft picks.

A native of Clemson, S.C., Harper lettered four seasons at Clemson in a career split between the offensive and defensive lines.

He appeared in four postseason bowl games and was part of three Atlantic Coast Conference championships. Harper graduated with a bachelor's degree in science administration (1989) before becoming a graduate assistant coach at North Carolina for the 1989 season.

Harper's late father, Tom, played for Bear Bryant at Kentucky and had a 38-year coaching career. The elder Harper was head coach at Wake Forest for a season and won a national championship as a Clemson assistant in 1981.

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