WCIA — Illinois football landed its first portal transfer for next season on Saturday with defensive back Nicario Harper pledging to play for the Illini in his final year of eligibility.

Harper comes to Champaign from Louisville where he played a small role for the Cardinals this season before announcing his intent to transfer in October. Illinois will be the 5-foot-11, 180-pound defensive back’s fourth school. After starting his career at Southern Miss, Harper transferred to Jacksonville State where he was named an FCS All-American with the Gamecocks.

The Illini will be active in the transfer portal this offseason at certain positions, including in secondary where they will have to replace all but one starter. The current team is in a holding pattern awaiting its bowl destination. The locations and opponents will be announced on Sunday, with most experts predicting the Illini (8-4) to head to either the Reliaquest Bowl (Tampa), the Music City Bowl (Nashville) or the Citrus Bowl (Orlando). The players say they are not picky.

“Wherever we get to go play, it’s one more time with the boys and that’s all I want to do,” Illinois senior offensive lineman Alex Palczewski said. “I don’t care if it’s Siberia, if it’s with the boys, that’s all I want.”

“Honestly I don’t care, if it’s with my team, that’s all I want,” Illinois cornerback Devon Witherspoon said. “I just want to play another game with them, they’re everything to me.”