The Florida Gators announced Thursday that redshirt senior safety Marcell Harris would miss the entirety of the 2017 season after suffering a torn Achilles on Wednesday.
"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 excellent for the Gators in 2016, leading the team with 73 tackles while adding a sack, two interceptions, a forced fumble, one fumble recovery and a defensive touchdown. He started eight games at safety and appeared in all 13 contests for the team.
That means the Gators will now head into the 2017 season with nine new starters on defense. On Tuesday, Harris was confident that the team would adjust to the changes on the defensive side of the ball and would be up for the challenge.
"Best defense in the nation. That's how we come out," he told Edgar Thompson of the Orlando Sentinel. "That's how we go about things. That's what our attitude is: we come out to be the best every time."
Now, the Gators will have to do so without one of their leaders and most productive and talented defensive anchors. In his absence, Chauncey Gardner could be moved back to safety or Jeawon Taylor could step into the starting role.