A full moon setting in the west, lightning dancing in some faraway clouds and a heavy coat of morning dew greeted Urban Meyer’s Florida Gators as they began the first of 29 preseason practices leading up to the defense of their 2008 Southeastern Conference and Bowl Championship Series national championships.
Officially, practice began at 6:10 Thursday morning on the Sanders Practice Fields, and not only were the Gators almost at full strength but they were also greeted by some 500 fans who began arriving about the time the Gators made the walk over from their locker room inside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. The practice was fast-paced and ended at 8 a.m. when most of the rest of real world was headed toward work.
“We got up a 4 this morning and drove over,” said Lynda Warner, a lifelong Gator fan from Jacksonville who came over with daughter, Lisa Hatfield, and granddaughter Emily, who hopes one day to attend the University of Florida and study architecture.
The three generations of Gators fans have watched many Florida-Georgy sia games in person, but the Hatfield mother and daughter finally attended a game at The Swamp last fall—Florida’s 70-19 victory over The Citadel in late November.
“It’s awesome,” Emily said about the experience.
Among the players absent were linebacker Brandon Hicks, safety Ahmad Black, running back Emmanuel Moody and wide receiver Carl Moore. Hicks was expected to work in the afternoon with the freshmen. Head coach Urban Meyer was to discuss their status following Thursday’s late afternoon practice session.
Friday’s practice schedule is the same as Thursday—early-morning workout for the veterans at 6:10 and an afternoon workout for the freshmen and other newcomers. Following those two sessions, the gates will be closed to the general public and media members until the Gators open their defense on Saturday evening, Sept. 5 at 7 p.m. against visiting Charleston Southern.