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Gators season-ticket holders got an exclusive look at Florida's football practice on Saturday.

Saturday August 9, 2014Season-Ticket Holders Get Exclusive Look at Gators

Gators season-ticket holders got an exclusive look at Florida's football practice on Saturday.

Scott Carter
By SCOTT CARTER Senior Writer

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- They were fathers and sons. Husbands and wives. Brothers and sisters. Some were neighbors or family friends.

They all had one thing in common Saturday morning at the Don Dizney Lacrosse Stadium: they are Gators football season-ticket holders.

As part of the eight open practices this fall for the Gators, Saturday’s was exclusively for those fans who serve as the lifeblood of the program.

Several hundred braved steamy conditions Saturday to watch the Gators during their second practice in full pads. The practice ended approximately 30 minutes early as inclement weather moved into the area.

Longtime season-ticket holder Art Theus drove over from Fort White to get his first glimpse of the 2014 Gators.

Gators offense

“Mostly to see the new quarterbacks,’’ Theus said was his reason for coming. “I wanted to see Will Grier and some of the newer guys. That, and to see what our offense looks like. I’m impressed so far. I saw some pretty good things out there. Of course, we’ll know more when [Jeff] Driskel gets back.”

Driskel, Florida’s starting quarterback, and receiver Andre Debose were excused from Saturday’s practice to participate in graduation ceremonies at the O’Connell Center.

Skyler Mornhinweg, Grier and true freshman Treon Harris took snaps and got extended instruction from first-year offensive coordinator Kurt Roper in Driskel’s absence.

UF graduate Emil Kanji attended the open practice with his wife and daughter.

As he watched his brother in Canada texted him constantly for updates.

“My brother is a huge Gators fan. He went undergrad here a long time ago,’’ Kanji said. “He’s texting me right now. He’s like, ‘my inside info guys can’t get in, so you have to give me a full detailed report.’ He follows them big-time on Rivals and and all the message boards.”

Kanji, who is from Orlando but now calls Gainesville home, doesn’t follow the team as closely as his brother, but he had his reasons for coming. He said he has been coming to Florida games since 1997 and plans to be at the season opener in three weeks when Florida faces Idaho at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

“I wanted to see the offense, to see how the receivers are doing and how the quarterbacks are playing,’’ Kanji said. “It was good to see them throwing the ball around and to see the receivers running routes. We need them. That was the big thing, from the Orange & Blue Game to now, seeing the change in the offense and seeing the up-tempo pace is definitely exciting.”

Driskel and Debose

Based on a small sample of fans the offense was the No. 1 attraction. In between snaps, many season-ticket holders took a break from football to watch the women’s soccer team practice next door or played cornhole on the mezzanine.

Kim Hersh made the trip from St. Augustine early Saturday with a friend. She focused much of her attention on the defense.

“I came to see if we’re going to be better. I like what I saw,’’ she said. “I’m a big fan of Dante Fowler and he looks good. He is going to have a big year. I just want the season to start so we can win a game and get back on track.”

Saturday’s practice was the third one open to the public since camp started Monday. For those who have been unable to attend one, you have five more opportunities.

The Gators’ morning practice is open Monday through Thursday (approximately 8:50 until 11 a.m.) and on Saturday, Aug. 16, from 9 to 11 a.m. at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium as part of UF Fan Day.


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