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Different kind of bowl week on deck for Indiana

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At least there will be a ... Taste of Florida event

Outback Bowl - South Carolina v Michigan
Pre-game ceremonies unfold at the 2013 Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium
Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Any other year, Indiana’s traveling party might already be in Tampa.

There would be community events to attend, post-practice activities for players, formal dinners and pep rallies built into the bowl week schedule. Last year, for example, the Hoosiers spent time on the beach and toured combat ships at Jacksonville’s Naval Stadion Mayport in the days leading up to the Gator Bowl. In 2016, they volunteered time at a community kitchen in San Francisco and went on a guided tour of Alcatraz ahead of the Foster Farms Bowl. And in 2015, they took in the full Christmas in New York experience before the Pinstripe Bowl,

This year, for obvious reasons, teams can’t do those types of things. It’ll be football and only football when IU arrives in Florida later this week for Saturday’s Outback Bowl matchup with Ole Miss.

“It will be a little different,” IU coach Tom Allen said.

After practicing in Bloomington on Monday morning, Indiana will hold two more training sessions on campus this week before flying out of Indianapolis on Wednesday afternoon. The Hoosiers will have one practice at a local high school facility on Thursday before holding a final walkthrough and taking a team photo on Friday. In between, IU will spend its time exclusively at its team hotel.

To break up some of the downtime this week, Allen said his program is putting together at least one on-site team event at the hotel.

“We will have a special thing we will do on Thursday night there at the hotel,” Allen said. “Kind of like a Taste of Florida type deal for the players that we will put on for them so they can enjoy the Florida food many of our guys really like from down there. So, that will be fun and just things kind of around the hotel. Because of COVID-19 you will not have the events or go to any amusement parks or anything like that, or go to beach or things you usually do around the game at this location. But you still get a chance to go down there a couple of days early.”

By the time IU touches down in Florida, the hope is the Hoosiers will have a full assortment of players to put through workouts. IU returned to practice last week following its recent COVID-19 pause, but, as of Monday afternoon, the Hoosiers still had some players sidelined due to quarantine procedures. It’s not clear which players or position groups have been most affected by IU’s outbreak this month, nor is it known what Indiana’s roster will look like by the end of the week.

But Allen says there is at least some reason to believe the roster will be in better shape in the coming days.

“The challenge now is to get back and have a great week of practice,” Allen said. “The whole group’s not back yet but we are getting closer. We may have them all back (Tuesday). We do not know yet. But definitely getting closer to that. You would like to get them all back at least by Wednesday so you can have a chance to get a full practice in before we head out of here. Ideally, you get them back (Tuesday) and you got two practices in pads. So, bottom line is that is still yet to be determined but definitely have a lot more guys back than we had before.”