Florida football: Chargers assistant Will Harris hired as Gators secondary coach

By OnlyGators.com Staff
December 10, 2023
Florida football: Chargers assistant Will Harris hired as Gators secondary coach

Image Credit: Anna Carrington, UAA

Two weeks after Florida Gators head coach Billy Napier’s move to fire a pair of defensive assistants was made public, Florida has finally been able to fill one of those vacancies. The Gators have brought aboard Los Angeles Chargers assistant secondary coach Will Harris to lead their secondary, the program announced Monday.

Harris had long been the target of head coach Billy Napier with Florida and the Chargers needing to work together to finalize the terms of his departure given L.A. is still in the midst of the NFL regular season.

Gators defensive backs — both those on the roster and those being recruited by the program — had been informed ahead of time that Harris was the choice with many expecting to hear from him early this week.

“Will Harris is an absolute professional. He will bring connection and confidence to our defensive backs room,” Napier said in a statement. “He has a great reputation and pedigree and will help our players reach their full potential as people, students and players. I’m excited to watch the impact he is going to have on our organization and team.”

“I’m very excited to be joining the University of Florida Football Program and such a dedicated and passionate staff,” Harris said. “It’s an honor, and I look forward to contributing to the legacy of excellence and the rich tradition that this program is known for.”

Harris was in his first season with the Chargers after serving as a defensive coordinator and secondary coach at Georgia Southern in 2022. That year, the Eagles had one of the worst defenses in the FBS, though their roster and talent level was a significant reason why. Harris spent the prior four seasons coaching defensive backs at Washington where his units ranked among the best in the Pac-12.

In fact, during the 2021 season, Washington allowed just 1,720 yards passing and six touchdowns through the air — both fewest in the nation — while grabbing 10 interceptions. His Huskies secondary units included first-round NFL Draft choice Trent McDuffie and second-round pick Kyler Gordon among multiple All-Pac-12 first- and second-team selections.

While Harris was the secondary coach at Washington, the unit was largely led by former Huskies head coach Jimmy Lake. Therefore, it’s tough to say who deserves credit for its success, though it’s notable the unit regressed following Lake’s departure.

“This game is all about relationships. I think one of the biggest things that I did and I learned as I went [through college football] was to connect with our guys no matter what. It doesn’t matter, the more you can connect with your guys, that’s when you build that love and trust and you guys run through walls for one another,” Harris said during an interview after being hired by the Chargers this offseason.

“Another thing our sport has gotten away from, especially in college, is not building confidence within the guys. I’m all about building confidence. Some guys say, ‘Break them down, build them up’. Well, I’m always building confidence in my guys because I believe confidence is cash.”

The former USC star (2005-09), who has a professional relationship with Snoop Dogg stemming from his days in Southern California, had brief stints in the NFL and CFL before moving into coaching. Harris worked his way up through the profession with stops at Northwestern Oklahoma (2013), Humboldt State (2014), Dixie State (2015) and San Jose State (2016-17) before he landed at Washington.

Harris replaces former secondary coach Corey Raymond, the most notable assistant hired as part of Napier’s initial coaching staff who was long known as a star recruiter at LSU.

Florida still must hire a defensive line coach after firing co-defensive coordinator Sean Spencer two weeks ago. It was expected that the Gators would also make changes to their offense and special teams staff, though no further movement has occurred at this point.

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