Florida football spring game now free to public, more like open practice

Kevin C. Cox

Injuries have left Florida without two full offensive lines. And so the Orange and Blue Debut will be modified into an open practice of sorts.

Florida coach Will Muschamp announced Tuesday that Florida's spring game on Saturday — the Orange and Blue Debut — will be more like an open practice, thanks to injuries to linemen.

Muschamp announced Tuesday that due to a lack of healthy offensive linemen, he is altering the format of Saturday’s Orange & Blue Debut spring game. Instead of a full scrimmage, the game will be an open practice that will include situational scrimmage snaps between individual and team position drills the Gators perform regularly at practice.

"It will be normal football like you watch on Saturday afternoon," Muschamp said. "It’s not fair to go in spring game situation and ask those guys to go 60 snaps in a row."

So fans won't see a fake game between two teams of players who aren't going full bore, but they will see a real practice with scrimmage snaps. I think that's a fair trade, especially because the nominal $5 ticket price that has been charged in recent years is being waived because the University Athletic Association knows the PR blowback from charging to attend a practice would be ridiculous of benificent corporate sponsorship.

In addition Muschamp announced Sunniland and the Florida Farm Bureau have partnered with the University Athletic Association to make the event free for the public.

If you bought a ticket, that will be refunded, either directly onto your credit card or with a refund check mailed to you; if you received a free ticket through the Florida Farm Bureau, you can now redeem that for money off a ticket to either the season-opening Toledo game or the November cupcake Georgia Southern game this fall. That's nice, and definitely doesn't in any way look like an attempt to pad numbers for two games that are likely to be lightly-attended.

As for the football ramifications of switching a spring game to a modified open practice: I'm not convinced there are any. The most significant thing that has happened in the last five years of Florida spring practices is Ronald Powell's torn ACL last year, and while that could have happened in a practice (and didn't truly do a lot to Florida's defense in 2012), I think it's far less likely that he would've been hurt in a practice setting.

With Florida limited on the offensive line — Jessamen Dunker is suspended, Trip Thurman has a torn labrum, and Chaz Green, Jon Halapio, and Ian Silberman all had surgeries for "body maintenance" (the best euphemism for lingering injuries I have heard all year) that have limited them in the spring, leaving the Gators with six healthy linemen — it doesn't make much sense to take the risk of getting another guy hurt.

Muschamp's taking a chance here, and hoping that fans who look forward to a spring game will be satisfied with a big, showy, and free open practice in The Swamp that allows for tailgating but is not actually a spring game. I think he's got the benefit of the doubt with most fans after an 11-2 season, but I also know Florida fans well enough to know that there will be more than a few aggrieved phone calls placed to high-ranking people.

The difference between those calls and an avoidable injury to D.J. Humprhies is that those calls won't have one iota of impact on games in the fall.

What about you, though? Do you think Muschamp's right or wrong to make the Orange and Blue Debut essentially a practice? Does this change your plans for the weekend?

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