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Published: Monday, 12/27/2010

Wolverines grateful for no snow in Florida

Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen, left, and UM coach Rich Rodriquez get a look at the Gator Bowl trophy to be awarded to Saturday's winner. Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen, left, and UM coach Rich Rodriquez get a look at the Gator Bowl trophy to be awarded to Saturday's winner.

JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. — Dressed appropriately in a sweatshirt and sweatpants, Jordan Kovacs looked at the bright side of the dreary temperatures he and his Michigan football teammates have endured since arriving in Sunshine State on Sunday.

"We're on the beach — a little better than Ann Arbor," Kovacs, a sophomore safety, said Monday, as he and other Wolverines played in sand a few feet from the ocean. "At least we're not shoveling snow."

Monday's mid 40s, midday temperatures were actually an increase of about 10 degrees from a day earlier when the Wolverines arrived to northern Florida for their first on-site practice in preparation for Saturday's Gator Bowl against Mississippi State at EverBank Field.

Minus their coaches, the Wolverines spent yesterday afternoon eating, laughing, and dancing at a beach party at a Comfort Inn in Jacksonville Beach, about 25 minutes from the stadium.

"It's like we're in Ann Arbor," running back Vincent Smith, a native of Pahokee in southern Florida, said in reference to the weather.

"But we're pretty much used to it."

Because of flights delayed by weather on the east coast, two players had not joined teammates as of mid afternoon Monday.

Patrick Omameh and Jared Van Slyke experienced problems with their connecting flights in Philadelphia and Charlotte, respectively, and were expected to arrive last night. Another teammate, receiver Junior Hemingway, showed about an hour late to yesterday morning's practice because his connecting flight on Sunday from Charlotte to Jacksonville was canceled.

"Another day of eating some more Christmas food," Hemingway said.

Because some players went home for Christmas, they were given the option of traveling to the bowl site independently of the team.

Good news for the team: Local temperatures are expected to climb each day, capped by anticipated mid 70s temperatures for Saturday's game.

DANCE OFF: A disc jockey played hip-hop music at the party, and it wasn't long before a handful of the Wolverines migrated to the dance floor to show off some moves. They eventually were joined by more teammates, and before long, nearly the entire team — whether participants or merely spectators.

Notable dancers included quarterbacks Denard Robinson and Devin Gardner, receivers Kelvin Grady and Roy Roundtree, and defensive backs Cam Gordon and James Rogers.

At one period, six Wolverines broke into groups of two for a dance-off.

Also showing moves on the floor was cornerback J.T. Floyd, who made it obvious he has recuperated sufficiently from his season-ending ankle injury.

"I finally got back on my feet, started walking about a week ago," Floyd said. "I'm just happy to be back up, standing tall."

Numerous players clamored for Fitzgerald Toussaint — supposedly an excellent dancer — to join the fray, but the freshman running back could not be found.

ODOMS POSSIBLE: Odoms suffered what was initially ruled a season-ending foot injury against Michigan State that required surgery. His availability for Saturday's game though has not been ruled out.

"It will probably be a game-time decision," he said.

Odoms has been a participant in both practices this week.

Contact Ryan Autullo at: rautullo@theblade.com or 419-724-6160.

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