Michigan makes most of Outback Bowl practice snafu
TAMPA, Fla. -- Michigan was ahead of the curve, heading to Florida three days before South Carolina and installing most of its game plan before Christmas.
Then, Mother Nature got in the way.
No. 19 Michigan (8-4) had been slated to hold its final fully-padded practice Wednesday before tapering into next week's Outback Bowl against No. 11 South Carolina (10-2), but heavy rains and lightning forced the team indoors at Tampa Jesuit High School.
Instead of holding a physical practice in full gear, players worked out in stocking feet in the school's cramped gymnasium.
But they're taking the unusual circumstances in stride, doing their best to prevent the snafu from becoming a setback.
"We went inside, and it was just like we were outside," junior receiver Jeremy Gallon said. "It was very intense -- serious. Everybody did their job, and we just worked hard."
But how hard, exactly, can players go when they've traded their cleats for socks?
"We were sliding everywhere," Gallon said. "But not everything is about going fast. We just practiced our techniques."
Gallon is among the several Florida natives on the team who are accustomed to such practices from high school ball. The junior said he practiced in his socks "plenty of times" at Apopka High School, located about 90 minutes from Tampa.
Senior left guard Ricky Barnum, who hails from nearby Lakeland, said he often did the same.
"Practice wasn't interesting for me, because it's something I'm used to, being from Florida," he said. "But it was interesting for a lot of guys.
"It was very fun, but at the time serious."
Barnum said the focus didn't change for the unusual practice: "Our focus is always going to be the same thing: Beat South Carolina. Come hard, ready to play and practice."
Placekicker Brendan Gibbons said he couldn't get in his normal work, instead focusing on working his steps and technique in the gym. He's not concerned about the lost reps.
Michigan took Wednesday night off, heading to a dinner with South Carolina at the A La Carte Event Pavilion in Tampa. Both teams were fed well, with Outback Steakhouse providing more than 4,700 pounds of food.
The Wolverines resume practice Thursday morning at Jesuit High School. And, no worries: The forecast calls for a 0 percent chance of rain.
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