Land O'Lakes begins the season with a handshake

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Mon. August 9, 2010 | Izzy Gould | Email

Land O'Lakes' first order of business Monday was to meet at midfield in Gator Stadium for what has become an annual handshake between coaches and players.

As the skies opened and began dumping rain, quarterback Stevie Weatherford led the Gators past coaches as they wished each other well on the upcoming season.

Weatherford, who had suffered an injury to his right (throwing) hand this summer, was throwing just fine Monday. The USF oral commitment is the clear No. 1 starter, but his time off from 7-on-7 in late July gave Hillsborough transfer Ryan Bird an opportunity to show he could play, too.

Perhaps the most interesting sight at Land O'Lakes was the sheer number of players. Gators coach Matt Kitchie said 115 players arrived for the first day of practice. That will enable the Gators to keep players on either offense or defense. It's still a rather staggering number of players considering Sunlake opened just a few years ago intended to relieve overcrowding at Land O'Lakes.

Speaking of Kitchie, players clamored around his sweet new ride just before practice. He was spinning around campus on a gleaming new electric golf cart painted in Gators colors with jacked up wheels and a logo that proudly displayed the cart was financed by the Gator booster club.

Two players said the cart probably cost more than each of their cars.

One of the best quotes of the afternoon came from Gators assistant Jason Hatcher. During a spell of heavy rain and thunder (no lightning), Hatcher declared, "That's the Lord's appreciation for the start of football season."

igould@tampabay.com

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