Florida defensive back suffers season-ending injury

Florida defensive back C.J. McWilliams tackles LSU wide receiver Justin Jefferson during the Oct. 6, 2018 game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. [Cyndi Chambers/Gainesville Sun Correspondent] 2018

Florida’s already thin secondary has taken another significant hit.

Redshirt junior C.J. McWilliams, the backup at one cornerback spot and at the star position, ruptured his Achilles in a recent practice and is out for the season, UF coach Dan Mullen announced Tuesday.

“He’s going to be out for the year,” Mullen said. “That’s a tough one, non-contact injury. That’s a shame because it’s one of those. Early in practice, just planted and drove and felt the pop. It’s a shame. It’s so tough. Guys work so hard. They put in all this work in the offseason and you get sidelined with an injury.”

With the loss of McWilliams, the Gators are now without four players who were expected to see significant playing time in the secondary this season coming out of the spring.

Cornerbacks Chris Steele and Brian Edwards have transferred, while sophomore John Huggins, expected to be the No. 2 star behind Trey Dean, remains in limbo and has yet to join the team for preseason camp.

Mullen has said Huggins is dealing with a family issue. He said he has clarity on Huggins’ situation and knows when he will return, but Mullen would not reveal the timetable.

Last October, Huggins was accused of allegedly choking a female tutor, but the case was dismissed after the alleged victim declined to press charges. Mullen said the incident is not related to Huggins’ current situation.

“No, that’s all been handled,” Mullen said.

After the alleged incident, Huggins did not play in the next five games last season.

“That was part of (why he was held out of those games),” Mullen said. “He was a true freshman, so he was only going to play in some games anyway for us. But his punishment was handled when all that happened.”

Mullen was asked if he’s happy with the way Huggins has handled himself since then.

“Some things, yes, some things, no,” he said.

With Huggins still sidelined and McWilliams out, the coaching staff is considering options in the secondary, especially at the star spot where Huggins and McWilliams were the depth behind Dean.

“There are a lot of different things that you’re doing there,” Mullen said. “(Linebacker and former safety Amari) Burney can do it. John Huggins. You could go as far as putting Marco Wilson there. When you’re within a base defense Burney can be there. There’s a lot of different things you can do personnel-wise.”

With the lack of depth in the secondary, Mullen said the three true freshman defensive backs — Kaiir Elam, Jaydon Hill and Chester Kimbrough — will see playing time this season.

“Situationally, I’ve learned this through the years: freshmen advance a lot faster out off of opportunity,” he said. “You look at some freshmen, like our three freshmen corners. They’re all going to play. There’s opportunities for them to play, and they’re getting moved up to play. It’s crazy.”

The coaches have not moved any offensive skill players to the secondary to bolster depth.

“I love guys to be multi-position guys and have the flexibility for guys to move around and be able to play multiple positions, but we haven’t moved anybody from offense to defense for the depth reason,” Mullen said.

It is apparent that Huggins will return at some point. He’s not the only player who has missed some practice time in preseason camp due to disciplinary reasons, Mullen revealed.

“We had several guys miss the scrimmage (Monday) for different reasons, taking care of different issues, stuff they have to handle personally, stuff they have to handle for me,” Mullen said. “So there were several guys that weren’t in the scrimmage. Nothing that we don’t have a great handle on, on each one of them.”


Other notes from Mullen:

* Safety Jeawon Taylor (shoulder) should be cleared to return to full-contact in practice by end of week.

*Quarterback Feleipe Franks made some really good throws in the scrimmage. Mullen continues to work with Franks on being a leader to make his teammates better.

*Several players missed the scrimmage “taking care of different issues.”

*Three true freshman defensive backs are going to play this season.

*Freshman offensive lineman Ethan White played with the “ones” a bit in the scrimmage.



    • Jaws – it is very disheartening to hear this young man get injured. This is one of the few instances that an individual should be held above the team. These players all work so hard to get better and to help the team win, that when any of them get injured everyone should feel for the player before feeling the loss for the team. I only mention this because when I was younger that is exactly the way I thought. Yeah the kid got hurt, but look how that leaves the team sort of mentality. So I only hope that by mentioning this that some fans don’t make the same youthful mistakes that I made. We know he will work hard in rehab and be back next year. I am not a religious man, but most are so, God speed in your recovery CJ. GO GATORS!!!

  1. Man, this team is losing too many players (2 ‘D’ contributors already) with the same injury, and way too early in the 2019 season. And while some may say, ”Third times a charm!” Well not in this case! And like Gator Ed said, ”Good speed!” with all their rehab & recoveries. And Gator Ed, everyone will be ”religious” (I prefer ”spiritual”) on the day they take their last breath on earth. So…
    Go Gators! Just win baby!

    • Man, is your concluding statement ever powerful GI. The way I see it, we’re all going to have eternal life and denominations don’t have much to do with it — but one does have a choice on where we’re going to spend it.

    • gatori70x7 – I am resolute in my belief and I am not a hypocrite, so I am 1 in a billion I suppose. Logic open s up a world of truth, but I don’t want to make this site a place to discuss it in depth. I believe in trying to be good, but humans keep proving over and over that something is amiss in our DNA. I don’t think less of anyone that has their beliefs, that is how most folks are raised, but I am content in the fact that we are born, we live, then we die. Just like I believe that we will win the SEC East this year. GO GATORS!!!

    • Oh my, I am totally buried with work these days, but feel obligated to take a minute to chime in here. I recall a time when I was talking to my Christian sister about the whole salvation thing before I became a “believer”, and the only thing I could come up with at the end of the conversation was “Well sis I hope I am right, because if you are right and I am wrong, I am…screwed”. Long story short, things happened in my life in my mid 40’s that resulted in a re-evaluation…followed by a never ending journey. I would be happy to visit this topic with any of my fellow Gators who may be uncertain or even doubtful. but are open to a conversation…off this forum.

    • “losing too many players…with the same injury”
      Makes me wonder if they are missing something in the S&C on stretching. They should all be able to put their toes on a 2×4 and their heels should touch the ground easily. When I was in competitive sports I was so stretched out that I could lay my chest on my thighs sitting on the ground or my hands flat on the floor while standing up bent over with knees locked and I never worried about a hamstring injury. These types of injuries usually occur due to muscles and tendons being too tight! It takes time (months) and effort to get stretched out like that because it has to be done gradually. ive never seen these types of injuries in people who are totally stretched out.

      • Daz – in the Army, we had physical training (PT) Mon. – Fri. which always started with warm up and stretch. I never had any issues until after I was 45 y/o. I think these young guys try to do so much cutting or planting that these sorts of injuries just happen to those going hard. Playing combat soccer (no rules) I felt a pop in my left knee, but no pain. I planted my left foot to kick with my right. To make a long story short, eventually it was found that I had cartilage tear away from the bone. Just a freak accident, but I had only been in the Army about 2 years. Fast forward 19 years and 6 knee surgeries later, I have a new left knee…LOL. Shame they couldn’t make me taller. There is just so much stress put on different parts of the body that the weak links tend to give. After all, we are just human. GO GATORS!!!

        • Gator Ed, there are stretches for the knee ligaments and tendons but the ligaments are very prone around the knee to damage, but stretching has no effect on meniscus tears like yours. This article was about an achilles tear though and a well stretched achilles should rarely tear, its a massive tendon. When I hear about hamstring and achilles tears, so common in football, I immediately think, poor stretching because the tear is due to being too tight for the demand that was put on it. Shin splints, which include tiny fractures in the shin bones are due to the muscle and tendons in that area being to tight because they arent being stretched. When I ran cross country and track, that was the 1st stretch they taught us because shin splints are so common in runners who dont properly stretch or who arent stretched out yet.

          • Daz – valid point, and we had stretches for particular parts of the body as well. We usually ran on M, W, and F., but since you can exercise legs and abs without a rest day, I always ran more often to stay ahead of the young Soldiers. Too many people just go through the motions and don’t actually get that stretch in that is needed to run. I am going to dig deeper and see if I can fins any useful data. Thanks for your opinion as it is going to make me learn more about achilles today. Besides the story of the Dragon and bathing in the blood. GO GATORS!!!

    • Yes it is and your point is?…. When you for instance, touch your toes, you are stretching the hamstrings, the calf muscles and the tendons that attach these muscles to the bones, including the achilles(which attaches the calves to the heels). this is just one type of stretch. there are stretches for every muscle and tendon group.