TAMPA — Four days into its stay in Florida, the Michigan football team had to overhaul its practice schedule in preparation for the Outback Bowl.
While Ann Arbor and its surrounding area weathered Wednesday’s snow, a band of storms hit the Tampa area and brought heavy rain and high winds, which forced the No. 19 Wolverines (8-4) to scrap their practice plans after taking Christmas day off.
Instead of spending a fourth day in Clearwater, Fla., and practicing at the Philadelphia Phillies’ spring training facility, Michigan relocated to Tampa’s Jesuit High School a day early and held its third practice in Florida indoors due to lightning and high winds.
The Wolverines had to leave their shoes at the door. Literally. Instead of wearing cleats, Michigan’s players practiced in their stockinged feet inside the Jesuit gymnasium to prepare for the New Year’s Day bowl game against No. 11 South Carolina (10-2).
Wet weather is part and parcel of life in Florida’s subtropical climate — and familiar to some of Michigan’s players who hail from the Sunshine State.
“Practice was .. well, it wasn’t interesting for me, because it’s something that I’m used to, being from Florida,” Michigan offensive lineman Ricky Barnum said. “But it was interesting for a lot of guys who got to go into the gym and run around in practice. It was fun, but at the same time serious.”
Barnum grew up in Lakeland, about 35 miles east of Tampa, and said that precipitation was common for him during high school football season.
“We’d play at night and a lot of times it rained, so we’d practice in our own gym, in our high school gym,” said Barnum, who added that he and his high school teammates opted for tennis shoes instead of gym socks during indoor practices.
Wide receiver Jeremy Gallon, who is from Apopka, Fla., about 95 miles northeast of Tampa, is also familiar with high school indoor practices. In socks. Though Gallon said he was surprised by Wednesday morning’s storms.
“But we went inside and it was just like were outside,” Gallon said. “It was very intense, it was very serious. Everybody just did their jobs and we were working hard. We were sliding everywhere, but we weren’t going for speed inside.”
In that situation, it’s not ideal to go full-speed. Gallon said the focus shifted to fundamental work.
“Not everything’s about going fast,” Gallon said.
Kicker Brendan Gibbons, however, wasn’t able to work out inside an enclosed space.
“I just watched and motivated the team, I guess,” Gibbons said, chuckling. “But [not kicking] won’t affect me. I just run through steps through my head and on the court.”
The Wolverines will practice today at Jesuit High School — the alma mater of former Michigan and current NFL kicker Jay Feely — and while the New Year’s Day bowl game against the Gamecocks is five days away, Gibbons has seen his team maintain its intensity level, even despite the change in the practice locale, which was scheduled to take place today.
“Every practice is very intense,” Gibbons said. “Everyone comes out to play and to get prepared for the big game we’ve got against South Carolina.”
Contact Rachel Lenzi at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6510 or on Twitter @RLenziBlade.