Florida Gators cornerback C.J. McWilliams will miss the entirety of the 2019 season after suffering a torn Achilles tendon in practice, Florida coach Dan Mullen revealed Tuesday in a press conference.
McWilliams, per Mullen “planted, drove, and felt a pop” in a practice, suffering the injury in a non-contact context.
McWilliams, a redshirt junior from Georgia, was in the mix to contribute significantly at Florida’s slot corner position — called “Star” — but had struggled for most of his first two seasons with the Gators, frequently getting targeted by opponents and ceding much of his playing time at the end of the 2018 season to true freshman Trey Dean III. His injury could allow younger defensive backs that might have higher ceilings than McWilliams’s own into the rotation in a sink-or-swim role.
“Freshman advance a lot off of opportunity,” Mullen said later in his presser. “Our three freshman corners” — Kaiir Elam, Jaydon Hill, and Chester Kimbrough — “they’re going to play.”
Mullen specifically mentioned sophomore Amari Burney, sophomore John Huggins, and even junior Marco Wilson, a likely starter at one outside corner position, as potential replacements for McWilliams at Star, but Dean was and is most likely to start at the position.
And Huggins is among the players that Mullen has mentioned as being in a psuedo-suspension limbo this offseason, though he has repeatedly refused to elaborate on reasonings for or durations of their suspensions, with a UAA spokesman previously terming a Huggins absence a “family issue.”
Mullen confirmed Tuesday that Huggins’s current situation is not related to a police report from last October in which Huggins was accused of choking a female tutor, but that his absence from several games last fall was related to it.
But Florida’s secondary depth was not a strength of this team prior to McWilliams getting hurt, with freshman Chris Steele and junior Brian Edwards transferring out this offseason and helping deplete that portion of the roster in so doing.
And now that depth has taken another hit. There are only so many more it can sustain without on-field catastrophe becoming likely.