By Zach Abolverdi, Correspondent
Florida opened football practice to the public this weekend for the first time since the spring, and about 200 fans took advantage of the opportunity.
Inclement weather caused Friday’s open practice to be closed, and the forecast Saturday forced the team to use the Indoor Practice Facility. Fans gathered inside the IPF to get their first glimpse of the No. 10 Gators before their Peach Bowl matchup against No. 7 Michigan on Dec. 29.
Florida coach Dan Mullen walked down the sideline to shake hands with fans and ask them if they were having a good time. After practice concluded, the players made their way over to the crowd and thanked them for coming.
The Gators will hold one more open practice for the fans on Sunday from 2:25-4:40 p.m. at the Sanders Practice Fields.
Here are observations from Saturday’s session:
- Cornerback C.J. Henderson got beat on a double move, but showed elite recovery speed and laid out for the ball to break it up.
- Making the throw on that play was quarterback Kyle Trask, who practiced in a boot on Saturday. Mullen said earlier this week that Trask (foot) has a “good shot” to be available for the bowl game.
- Trask showed his accuracy on a corner route by wide receiver Van Jefferson, who got open by putting a great move on defensive back Chauncey Gardner-Johnson.
- Freshman defensive back Amari Burney made a nice pass breakup during 1-on-1 drills.
- Left tackle Martez Ivey and tight ends C’yontai Lewis and Moral Stephens graduated on Saturday and did not practice.
- Franks threw a deep touchdown pass down the middle to Jacob Copeland, who was one of the standouts Saturday. The freshman wide receiver also caught a pass from Trask and made a few receptions during 11-on-11 work. Copeland will be a big beneficiary of the extra bowl practices.
- Franks completed a deep ball to Freddie Swain and also connected with wide receiver Trevon Grimes, who is coming off a breakout performance at FSU.
- Freshman cornerback Trey Dean was another standout from Saturday’s practice. He dove in front of Kadarius Toney’s dig route and almost picked off Franks. That didn’t stop Dean from celebrating afterward.
- Trask hit wide receiver Josh Hammond over the middle and completed a couple passes to Jefferson, including a deep shot.
- Freshman quarterback Emory Jones found running back Dameon Pierce wide open on a wheel route for a touchdown.
- Jones had a blunder later in the session, getting picked off by linebacker Rayshad Jackson.
- Wide receiver Rick Wells made an impressive one-handed catch, while tight end Kemore Gamble dropped a touchdown pass.
- Copeland caught two deep balls during this period, including one play where Franks scrambled to his left and threw against his body to make the completion.
- Franks dropped a dime on a corner route to tight end Lucas Krull, who turned it upfield for almost 20 extra yards before safety Brad Stewart pushed him out of bounds.
- Franks also rolled out and threw across the field to a wide open Gamble, who made the catch this time.
- Franks did have a turnover. He heaved a long ball to Trevon Grimes, but it was too short and Gardner-Johnson picked it off. After running down the sideline for a few seconds, he punted the ball out of bounds.
- Defensive end Antonneous Clayton made a great play in coverage, tracking down a deep pass and batting it down.
- Jones connected with fellow freshman Kyle Pitts for a first-down play. Pitts got a lot of work at tight end Saturday with Lewis and Stephens graduating.
- Jones also completed a sideline pass to Toney, but was sacked by defensive tackle T.J. Slaton on the following snap.
- Jones did make a play with his legs during 11-on-11 work. He took off when the pocket collapsed and gained 10 yards on the run before getting tagged.
- Running backs Lamical Perine and Iverson Clement both broke free for long touchdowns. Clement made an incredible cut on his run.
- On the final play of practice, Franks scrambled right and completed a deep sideline pass to walk-on Jaylin Jackson, who ran it into the end zone.