Gators lose McWilliams, hurting in secondary

Florida Gators reserve defensive back C.J. McWilliams will miss the 2019 season with a ruptured Achilles tendon, the latest blow to a secondary that has lost several players in recent months.

Gators coach Dan Mullen on Tuesday confirmed that McWilliams suffered the injury on a non-contact play in practice. McWilliams appeared in nine games last season -- starting two -- and recorded 16 tackles and four pass breakups. He was in the rotation at Florida's "Star," or nickelback, position.

"It was early in practice, planted and drove and felt the pop," Mullen said. "It's a shame."

Earlier this summer, Florida reserve cornerback Brian Edwards announced he would enter the transfer portal and landed at Central Michigan with former Gators coach Jim McElwain. Chris Steele, a top-100 defensive back recruit who enrolled early, transferred from Florida this spring and landed at USC. Gators nickelback John Huggins is absent from the team because of family reasons.

Mullen declined to elaborate on Huggins but said Tuesday it has nothing to do with an allegation that the sophomore choked a female student last year.

"That's all been handled," Mullen said.

According to a police report released this week in response to public records requests, a 19-year-old Florida student said Huggins choked her during a tutoring session last October. Huggins was upset because the tutor took his phone in hopes of ensuring he would stay for the entire session, the report said.

The woman had previously been uncomfortable because Huggins pulled her hair in another session, the report said. She did not pursue a criminal case, and no charges were filed from the battery complaint.

Mullen said Huggins was punished; he missed five games following the alleged incident and is currently enrolled at the school.

Mullen said Tuesday that three true freshman cornerbacks -- Kaiir Elam, Jaydon Hill, and Chester Kimbrough -- all would play this season. Florida opens the season Aug. 24 against Miami in Orlando, Florida.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.