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Jags, Bucs sport numerous high profile ex-Gators, ‘Noles

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The Bucs travel to Jacksonville to face the Jaguars on Saturday. While both teams are looking for their first victory, the coaches are trying to use these games to look at those who can help them once the season begins.

Tampa Bay somehow got 84 players onto the field in Philadelphia during Thursday’s 17-9 loss to the Eagles. Those numbers will steadily decrease over the next two weeks.

The Jaguars did not send nearly as many players into action, but there was a story behind one who did play. Former Gator Dante Fowler, Jr. saw his first action in more than 18 months at defensive end. Fowler, the third pick overall in the 2015 draft, missed all of last season due to a severe knee injury.

“You could just tell in the locker room that a lot of emotions were going through his head,” said Jacksonville Coach Gus Bradley. “He was just so excited to play.”

Gator fans hope to see the Jags’ top draft pick from 2016. Vernon Hargreaves III was on the field for 30 snaps in Tampa Bay’s preseason opening 17-9 loss to the Eagles in Philadelphia on Saturday. Hargreaves was held out of Saturday’s practice with an injury not believed to be serious.

Jacksonville and Florida State fans are hoping this year’s top draft pick, former Seminole cornerback Jalen Ramsey, finally makes his pro debut. While he has not missed any practices since his knee surgery in May, Ramsey was held out of the game as a “precautionary” move. He was back at practice on Saturday.

The other Seminole to watch is kicker Roberto Aguayo. During his college career he made all 198 of his extra point tries, but missed his first attempt as a pro last Thursday.

Sure, there are several other players to watch, including Bucs’ second-year quarterback Jameis Winston. If training camp is about evaluating rookies, this game will provide plenty of opportunities for coaches and fans.

Since the NFL teams force season ticket holders to pay full price to watch scrimmages, singling out favorite college players to watch is the best way to get their money’s worth.

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Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at Bob@ramos-sparks.com.

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