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BYU football: Micah Harper meeting high expectations on the early season

True freshman Micah Harper is charting a similar course to that of Troy Warner during his first season at BYU

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FILE — Micah Harper, left, a cornerback out of Chandler, Ariz., signed a Letter of Intent with the BYU football program in December.

Photo provided by Micah Harper

PROVO — Given Micah Harper’s recruiting and athletic credentials upon signing with BYU, it was somewhat easy to peg him as an immediate contributor as a true freshman.

Through just three games played this season, the 3-star product from Arizona has met and probably even surpassed most initial expectations given his two successful starts at cornerback.

Observing it all has been BYU senior safety Troy Warner, who charted a similar course as Harper when he joined the Cougar program as a true freshman back in 2016. Warner was immediately thrust into a starting slot at cornerback during his first year and acquitted himself nicely before having his season cut short due to injury.

“I was talking to him earlier at practice at just how impressed with how he’s handling things as a true freshman,” Warner said. “I keep telling him that he’s going to be a great player for BYU, and to just keep his head down and to keep grinding, and keep progressing each day. He has a ton of upside.”

Harper was named the starter versus Troy and responded with seven total tackles, of which four were solo tackles. He then logged two more tackles in a start versus Louisiana Tech, but more importantly proved adept in his coverage and other defensive assignments.

For Harper, he’s grateful for the opportunity to help his team, while admitting to some initial nerves.

“I was a little nervous at first, but (my teammates) kept telling me that I’d be ready,” Harper said. “And I just trusted the scheme — knowing coaches put me in a (good) position. ... I just want to do good for the team so that we can win.”

Harper was attracted to BYU due to the program’s academic and athletic combination — feeling it offered a great overall package, along with being attracted to the Cougars’ high-level opponents. Of course many of those opponents are no longer on the schedule this season, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, although Harper has enjoyed his initial BYU experience so far.

“I love it over here. I feel I made the best decision,” the 5-foot-10, 185-pound athlete said succinctly yet emphatically during his media session with reporters.

Perhaps the aspect of Harper’s game that has stuck out most on the early season is his ability to tackle and a lay a hit. It’s a skill many true freshmen defensive backs have to work on, although Harper appears ahead of the curve.

“It’s really just coming up and not being afraid,” Harper said of his ability to tackle. “When you play defense you can’t be afraid, and it’s really just that. And also, our front seven makes a lot of tackles, so I just feel happy when a ball comes out my way so I can get in on that action and get a tackle.”

Harper has developed a strong bond with BYU’s incoming class of skill position players who aren’t members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — namely fellow defensive back Jacques Wilson, along with receivers Kody Epps and Chris Jackson and running back Miles Davis, among several others.

“It’s a great energy and just a lot of laughter,” Harper describes of both his position group and social group at BYU. “But it’s also serious when we got to get to business.”

Harper also cites good influence from BYU’s more experienced players, such as Chris Wilcox and Warner.

“It’s a blessing ... just watching them play and being on the same field as them,” Harper said. “It helps me elevate my game to play as well as them.”