Lumberjacks step on the field for first scrimmage Saturday
Three Lumberjacks land first-team honors
SFA defensive end is one of 38 players named to the 2013 list
'Jack's RB coach to attend annual Bill Walsh NFL Minority Coaching program
Football stadium will have a new look with addition of Hellas Matrix Turf
Entering his ninth season with the Lumberjack football program, J.C. Harper is in his seventh season as Stephen F. Austin's head coach. The architect of SFA's most successful two-year stretch in program history, and one of the nation's most explosive offenses, the 'Jacks hold one of the Southland Conference's best records over the course of the past four seasons, a stretch which includes two SLC titles, two top-10 finishes and consecutive trips to the NCAA playoffs. The two-time SLC Coach of the Year is only 14 wins shy of becoming the school's all-time winningest head coach.
Harper had to build the Lumberjack program from the ground up. Taking over a program that went 0-11 during his first season, Harper orchestrated one of the biggest turnarounds in the nation guiding the Lumberjacks to a conference title just two seasons later. The Lumberjacks ended the season ranked among the nation's top 10, and advanced to the second round of the FCS playoffs. It was the first Southland Conference title for SFA since 1999.
Following the '09 campaign, Harper was recognized for his efforts being named the SLC Coach of the Year, and finishing second by only two points for the Eddie Robinson National Coach of the Year Award.
Just for good measure, Harper's troops repeated that winning formula the following season by recording another Southland title, its second-straight top-10 ranking and received a bye in the opening round of the playoffs. It marked the first time in program history that a Lumberjack football team won back-to-back conference titles at any level. In addition to the team's success, quarterback Jeremy Moses became the first player in SFA and Southland history to win the Walter Payton Award, the FCS' version of the Heisman Trophy.
Although Harper's background was on the defensive side of the ball, the two-time Southland Coach of the Year has produced some of the nation's most explosive offensives since 2008. The 2013 season marked the third time in the past four years SFA has led the nation in passing offense during the regular season. The Lumberjacks have been ranked among the nation's top six in passing each of the past five seasons, with two passing national titles. SFA has ranked among the nation's top 10 in total offense each of the past four seasons, and among the nation's top 10 in scoring offense in three of the last four seasons.
In addition to the two passing national titles recorded under Harper, SFA has also led the nation in several other categories. During the 2011 season, the Lumberjacks posted the nation's top mark in sacks, tackles for losses and pass protection. Harper's athletes have reaped the benefits of his time as head coach. Over the course of the past six seasons 93 SFA athletes have earned All-SLC honors, including 26 first-team selections and 55 have received All-America honors including 2010 Walter Payton Award winner Jeremy Moses, and 2013 CFPA Elite Defensive Performer Willie Jefferson. In addition to that, Harper has produced three league newcomers of the year, two players of the year, two defensive players of the year, an SLC offensive player of the year and has had two players drafted, and nine others have signed free agent contracts.
Harper came to Nacogdoches as the defensive coordinator prior to the 2005 season. In his first year, Harper was given the task of guiding a youthful defense through the rigors of one of the nation's toughest schedules. During his second year on the job, Harper began to see some of the fruits of his labor. Harper turned a defense that finished near the bottom in every statistical category in 2005, into the most effective defense in the league. SFA led the SLC in scoring defense, rush defense and total defense during league games in 2006.
A 23-year veteran of collegiate coaching, Harper was at Western Michigan prior to joining the SFA staff. He was the defensive coordinator for coach Gary Darnell in 2004 and served as the defensive line coach in 2003. His defensive line was ranked third-best in the MAC in 2003. He also coached Jason Babin, a first-round draft pick of the Houston Texans while at WMU.
Prior to Western Michigan, Harper spent four seasons as an assistant in the SLC helping Northwestern State and McNeese State to three playoff appearances. Harper was the defensive coordinator and assistant head coach for Scott Stoker at Northwestern State in 2002 when the Demons posted a 9-4 record and earned an FCS playoff spot. The Demons were first in the SLC in total defense in 2002, giving up only 276.6 yards per game.
Harper also spent a season as the defensive coordinator at Southwest Missouri State in 1997 and served an earlier stint as the defensive line coach at Western Michigan in 1996. He spent four seasons as the defensive line coach at Southwest Missouri State from 1992-96.
Following a four-year playing career at Clemson, where the Tigers won three ACC Championships, Harper began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at North Carolina under Mack Brown. He later served two seasons as a graduate assistant for coach Lou Holtz at Notre Dame.
Harper and his wife, Marcie, are the parents of a son, Michael (7) and daughter, Emma (3).