Florida will be without one of its top defensive players for the entire 2017 season.
The program announced Thursday morning that safety Marcell Harris, a redshirt senior, suffered a torn right Achilles. The injury happened Wednesday during a team run, a week after he represented the Gators at SEC Media Days.
“As a coach this is one of the hardest things you are faced with,” Gators head coach Jim McElwain said. “Here is a kid who has made great personal growth during his time here and has really matured both on and off the field. It is tough to see a player invest so much in himself and his teammates and have this happen, but I do know that we will support him every step of the way as he works through this injury.”
The 6-foot-1, 211-pound Harris played in 13 games in 2016, starting eight, and led the Gators with 73 tackles. He also added four tackles for loss, one sack, two interceptions, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. Before emerging as a starter in 2016, Harris was a key contributor on special teams. In 2015, he played in 12 games and finished the year with 22 tackles. He had seven tackles in 12 games in 2014.
The loss is a big one for a Florida defense already replacing eight (now nine) starters from 2016. The injury to Harris could force Chauncey Gardner, who started the team’s final three games at safety, to move back to safety alongside Nick Washington. Gardner practiced mainly at cornerback during the spring.
With the Marcell Harris injury, Florida now down to four returning defensive starters and missing its top four tacklers from '16.
— Pat Forde (@YahooForde) July 20, 2017
Harris took a redshirt in 2013, but may be able to apply for a medical redshirt to return to the field for UF in 2018.
Elsewhere in the secondary, multiple outlets reported Thursday that Chris Williamson, a junior corner, will transfer. Williamson appeared in 14 games and registered five tackles over his two seasons with the program. He was expected to be a backup in 2017.
This past spring, Florida opted to move the 5-foot-11, 191-pound Williamson, a Gainesville, Georgia, native, from cornerback/nickelback to the safety position, where the depth was low considering Jeawon Taylor and Quincy Wilson were sidelined with injuries and Florida’s six 2017 defensive back signees hadn’t arrived on campus yet.
Florida, coming off a 9-4 season, opens the 2017 slate against Michigan on Sept. 2 in Arlington, Texas.
For more Florida news, visit InsideTheGators.com.
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