This will be an unusual Christmas for Jordan Kovacs, as he and the Michigan football team won't be spending the holiday within the comforts of home.
Instead, the Wolverines will take advantage of spending a few extra days in Florida in preparation for the Outback Bowl on New Year’s Day.
“It’s going to be weird, because I’ve never been anywhere else but Toledo, or Curtice, Ohio, for Christmas,” said Kovacs, a senior safety and a Clay graduate. “It’ll be interesting but it will be fun. It will be different to be somewhere warm. I don’t know exactly what our plans are.”
The No. 19 Wolverines (8-4) arrived Sunday in Clearwater Beach, Fla., in preparation for the Outback Bowl, three days before its opponents and nine days before the game at Raymond James Stadium.
Brady Hoke’s reasoning for the early arrival?
Not just to the warm weather, as the forecast calls for 70-degree days early this week in the Tampa area, but it also gives the Wolverines the opportunity to adjust to their surroundings.
“Some of that will be to get them acclimated a little bit, to the locker room and all that kind of stuff, and where we’re going, and those kinds of things,” the second-year coach said before Michigan’s departure. “We’ll do that, [practice] the 23rd and the 24th, and off the 25th, and the 26th back on.”
Hoke told reporters Sunday that every player made the trip to the bowl game except cornerback J.T. Floyd, punter Will Hagerup, and linebacker Brandin Hawthorne.
The three players were suspended last week from traveling to and participating in the Outback Bowl because a violation of team rules.
Michigan began practices for the Outback Bowl on Dec. 7, and the Wolverines practiced Sunday and Monday at the Bright House Field, the Philadelphia Phillies’ spring training facility in Clearwater, Fla.
Michigan will take today off before resuming practice Wednesday at Bright House Field, and will continue its practices Thursday at Jesuit High School in Tampa.
No. 10 South Carolina (10-2), arrives Wednesday in Tampa and will practice at 11 a.m. Thursday at Jefferson High School in Tampa.
“We’ve had several decent practices,” Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier told reporters last week. “Hopefully, our guys will be ready to play Michigan. The more tape we watch on them, the more we see what a big, strong defensive front they have. Their secondary’s good, too, but their front guys sort of jump out at you.”
Hoke and Spurrier have two different outlooks on the potential outcome of the Outback Bowl, in terms of creating momentum in the offseason.
“If you stumble, then it’s a little more momentum that you have to create as a coach and as a senior class,” Hoke said.
Spurrier sees it differently.
“I just know you feel a lot better when you win the bowl game than when you lose,” Spurrier said. “You’d better win the bowl game, or nobody gives a dang. Hopefully we can go down there and get win No. 11.”
Contact Rachel Lenzi at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6510 or on Twitter @RLenziBlade.