Thursday afternoon it was announced that Miami defensive end Gerald Willis III has taken a leave of absence from the football program and will not play in 2017. Head coach Mark Richt said in the release that Willis will be allowed to participate in designated team activities this upcoming season, and no reason for Willis’ leave of absence was given.
The 6-foot-4, 285-pound Willis played in nine games for the Hurricanes as a redshirt sophomore, accounting for 19 total tackles (13 solo), 5.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks as part of Miami’s defensive line rotation. Willis was suspended on two separate occasions last season for a violation of team rules, missing the opener against Florida A&M and Miami’s Russell Athletic Bowl victory over West Virginia.
At the time of his suspension from the bowl game Willis was already out of the lineup, as he underwent surgery to repair a torn MCL in his left knee in mid December. Miami will be down a man as a result of Willis’ leave of absence, but the team does return its top six tacklers on the defensive line from a season ago.
RJ McIntosh (47 total tackles), Kendrick Norton (39), Chad Thomas (38), Joe Jackson (32), Demetrius Jackson (28) and Joe Harris (25) all return, with Joe Jackson leading that group with 7.5 sacks in 2016.
Willis began his college career at Florida, where he played in five games and tallied 14 total tackles, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. In January 2015 Willis was dismissed from the Florida program, ultimately getting a second chance at Miami.