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Friday, September 30, 2022
<p>Marcell Harris looks on during Florida's 16-10 win against LSU on Nov. 19, 2016, at Tiger Stadium.</p>

Marcell Harris looks on during Florida's 16-10 win against LSU on Nov. 19, 2016, at Tiger Stadium.

Marcell Harris had the opportunity to declare for the NFL Draft this spring along with fellow teammates Jalen Tabor, Quincy Wilson, Alex Anzalone and others.

He decided against it, opting to spend one final year with Florida’s football team instead. 

But now, after suffering a season-ending injury on Wednesday, he’ll never get that chance.

The redshirt senior tore his right Achilles tendon while “participating in team run activities,” Florida announced on Thursday morning. Harris was expected to play an important role on UF’s defense in 2017 as one of its starting safeties. 

The Orlando native recorded a team-leading 73 tackles last fall as well as four tackles-for-loss, one sack, two interceptions, one pass breakup, one quarterback hurry, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. 

“As a coach, this is one of the hardest things you are faced with," coach Jim McElwain said in a release. “Here is a kid who has really 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.”

Harris was dead set on wanting to spend one final season in Gainesville.

“Why wouldn’t I want to play for the Gators again?” he said on March 27 when asked about his decision to forgo the NFL Draft. “I’ve got a bond with these players.”

Now, Florida is tasked with handling the loss of another talented defensive back from last year’s team.

Tabor, Wilson and safety Marcus Maye all went to the NFL this summer, and the injury to Harris leaves Duke Dawson, Chauncey Gardner Jr. and Nick Washington as the only players in UF’s secondary with extensive in-game experience. Dawson and Gardner Jr. were expected to start at cornerback, while Harris and Washington were expected to start at safety.

Moving Gardner Jr. into Harris’ now vacant starting safety spot is one option for McElwain, as the sophomore spent ample time at the position last season.

The Gators also have a class of incoming freshmen headlined by four-star defensive backs CJ Henderson, Brad Stewart, Donovan Stiner and Marco Wilson. Senior Joseph Putu, sophomore Jeawon Taylor and redshirt freshman C.J. McWilliams are other players who could see their playing time increase next year due to the loss of Harris. 

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Contact Dylan Dixon at ddixon@alligator.org and follow him on Twitter @dylanrdixon.

Marcell Harris looks on during Florida's 16-10 win against LSU on Nov. 19, 2016, at Tiger Stadium.

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