The Florida redshirt senior safety, who was one of three players representing the Gators at the SEC Media Days, has been lost for the year with a torn right Achilles tendon he suffered Wednesday participating in team run activities.
"As a coach this is one of the hardest things you are faced with," 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."
Harris was poised to be one of Florida’s finest players in 2017, having led the team in tackles in 2016 despite not playing a full-time role until a season-ending injury to Marcus Maye late in the season. He would likely have paired with fellow senior Nick Washington to form an experienced back line of the Gators’ secondary.
Instead, after suffering an injury in the team-run activities most programs’ players organize over the summer, his season — and potentially his collegiate career — are over. There’s no medical reason to believe Harris could return to the field within the next six months, and he would need an NCAA waiver to receive a sixth year of eligibility in 2018, as he redshirted during his freshman season in 2013 without any obvious medical reason for doing so.
Notably, though, Florida’s release only mentions that Harris is “lost for the year.”
Without Harris, Florida could consider keeping sophomore Chauncey Gardner at safety, where he played extensively and occasionally excelled as a freshman in 2016, rather than proceeding with a move to cornerback that was presaged by a spring spent working at the position. Redshirt freshmen Quincy Lenton and Jeawon Taylor would also seem to be candidates for the position, as would true freshman Brad Stewart.
Florida also lists most of its defensive backs at “DB” — rather than cornerback, a position only true freshmen CJ Henderson and Marco Wilson are listed at — on its official roster, a nod to the position versatility of players like Gardner and Duke Dawson, who has played multiple roles in his time in Gainesville.
So McElwain, defensive coordinator Randy Shannon, and defensive backs coach Corey Bell have options when it comes to replacing Harris.
But they now lack a player whose rise at the end of 2016 foretold a strong finish to his career as a Gator, thanks to a brutal bit of bad luck.