The University of Miami announced Thursday that defensive lineman Gerald Willis will be “taking a leave of absence” from the program.
According to the release, Willis – a redshirt junior – will not compete in any games in the upcoming 2017 season.
“Gerald remains part of the Miami family and may take part in designated team activities,” UM head coach Mark Richt said in the release.
The school did not provide any further details regarding Willis’ situation.
Nonetheless, Willis has had a tumultuous college career.
He started his career at the University of Florida as a highly-touted defensive line prospect. During his one season in Gainesville, Willis had multiple off-the-field incidents – including two altercations with teammates. Also, Willis’ on-field actions – accumulating a handful of unsportsmanlike penalties – also caused some to cast him as “temperamental”.
He was subsequently dismissed from Florida at the end of his freshman year and chose to transfer to Miami. Willis sat out the requisite year (2015) for transferring and was looking to get a fresh start with the Canes in 2016.
Trouble found Willis again at the start of the 2016 season, as he served a one-game suspension for an undisclosed reason. But he worked his way into the Canes’ D-Line rotation and ended up playing in nine games – recording 13 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks in the process.
The 6-foot-2, 285-pound Willis did not play in Miami’s win over West Virginia in the Russell Athletics Bowl due to another suspension – on top of him dealing with a knee injury that required surgery.
Willis spent the offseason, into the spring, rehabbing and working his way back to active roster – and was returning to his peak form according to sources – but it was all derailed upon the news of his taking a leave.
Losing Willis doesn’t really hurt the Hurricanes’ defensive line. Juniors Kendrick Norton and R.J. McIntosh were still the incumbent starters at defensive tackle. Both are capable of playing a large number of snaps while senior Anthony Moten, redshirt sophomore Ryan Fines, sophomore Pat Bethel, redshirt freshman Tyreic Martin and true freshman Jon Ford will provide depth.