UF safety leaving a mark

Florida defensive back Marcell Harris participates in drills during spring practice at the Sanders Practice Fields on the UF campus earlier this month.

Doug Finger/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Monday, April 14, 2014 at 12:06 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, April 14, 2014 at 12:06 p.m.

If you heard Florida coach Will Muschamp screaming during the first week of spring practices, chances are he was yelling at safety Marcell Harris.

In Saturday's Orange & Blue Debut, Muschamp hollered at Harris with a much different tone.

He recorded a game-high nine tackles as well as a pass breakup.

“I feel like I made a lot of plays,” Harris said.

Last month was the first time playing at full strength for the redshirt freshman. In 2013, he enrolled at UF still recovering from MCL surgery and wasn't himself in fall training camp.

Harris sat out last season to let his knee heal, but he didn't take full advantage of his free time.

He entered this spring without knowing Florida's defense like the back of his hand.

“I really should have already learned the playbook and schemes,” he admitted.

On top of getting his feet (and knee) wet in the early practices, Harris was also trying to get his assignments down. Muschamp and secondary coach Travaris Robinson were all over him each time he messed up.

“Honestly, I haven't been coached that hard,” he said. “They coached me hard. They're going to coach you hard all through your four years. You just have to take coaching well and put it back out on the field.”

Things began to click for Harris during the second half of spring. He started picking up the defense and gaining confidence in his knee, doing less thinking and more playing.

“I felt really, really good about it,” Harris said. “Coming along all spring by learning techniques and what I'm supposed to do. Also, the competition at my position was really high.”

Receiver Ahmad Fulwood has noticed the change in Harris, his 2013 classmate.

“Marcell is going to be dangerous,” Fulwood said. “He's improved a lot from having knee surgery and being banged up to now where he's flying around and getting his nose in there. I see him on top of routes all the time. He's done a really good job of improving from where he was just a few months ago.”

The biggest strength for Harris is his head-hunting mentality. The 6-foot-2, 215-pounder delivers jarring hits from his safety spot, and he had several Saturday.

“It just comes natural to me,” Harris said. “Hits like that are supposed to come as long as you're running to the ball. I'm just going to bring it.”

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