How much are the Gators missing injured safety Marcell Harris?

Similar to the weekly “Gators Mailbag” that ran in previous weeks this season, we are tackling the best question supplied by fans to our SEC Country Florida Facebook page each day. Look for the “Question of the Day” every Monday through Friday.

Florida’s tackling struggles remain among the most common gripes from fans as Gators safeties in particular continue to miss on potential stops that in turn lead to bigger plays for the opposition.

That led to an interesting submission for the latest “Question of the Day.”

Jeremy M. asks … “Do y’all think Marcell (Harris) is our biggest loss so far?”

Great question. With all the focus on Florida’s suspended players and the legal issues facing star running back Jordan Scarlett and star wide receiver Antonio Callaway, it’s easy to forget the other big personnel loss the Gators were dealt in the preseason.

Redshirt senior safety Marcell Harris was projected to be a leader for this young Gators secondary, both in terms of his hard-hitting play and his ability to communicate and organize the freshmen DBs. But a torn right Achilles tendon ended his season before camp even started.

I’m still going to say Callaway is the biggest loss from a pure on-field skill set standpoint. Imagine what Callaway and Cleveland could do together to open up more downfield plays and divert the attention of opposing defenses. So far, Cleveland has been the Gators’ only real home-run threat. I think this offense looks a lot different if Callaway is mixing in his usual dose of big plays.

But right behind him, I put Harris as the second-biggest loss.

I asked coach Jim McElwain Monday about sophomore safety Chauncey Gardner Jr.’s tackling issues, and while defending Gardner’s upside as a ballhawk playmaker, he acknowledged the safety has been in position for key stops and simply not executed.

“I think he was in position this week and didn’t grab cloth and drag to the ground. Now, it’s a matter of keeping your feet moving. That’s really where that is. And yet, I’m glad Chauncey is on our football team. He’s a good player,” McElwain said.

Meanwhile, senior safety Nick Washington is playing through a shoulder injury that has clearly limited his ability to make arm tackles.

I agree this defense looks much different with Harris, who was Florida’s leading tackler in 2016. With Harris and Washington at safety, I think Gardner would be in a more natural position rotating between cornerback and nickel.

It was a tough break for Harris with the torn Achilles, and as it’s proving to be a really noticeable loss for the Gators.

The post How much are the Gators missing injured safety Marcell Harris? appeared first on SEC Country.

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