Drama has little ill effect on Meyer, UF

Gators coach will not reveal his health issues, but it's all good for Florida

McClatchy NewspapersJanuary 26, 2010 

Troubled Gators football

Florida head coach Urban Meyer

MARK HUMPHREY/AP

GAINESVILLE, Fla. - The most interesting thing about Urban Meyer's "I'm back" news conference over the weekend was not something he said but rather his actions.

Meyer took the time to shake reporters' hands, something he never does. He smiled. He cracked jokes. He's fattening up. He's still taking a break after National Signing Day on Feb. 3, but he said he plans to coach spring football.

The buzzer beater came less than an hour after Meyer spoke candidly with reporters in a corridor of the O'Connell Center.

"I keep hearing about this time off, and the people I'm closest to are going to demand I take some time off, but I tried that already," Meyer said. "I tried a day and a half, and it didn't work."

Meyer said that he has gained 20 pounds since the end of football season, when his deteriorating health contributed to his decision to suddenly quit his job. Meyer changed his mind the following day and instead decided to take an indefinite leave of absence. At the time, he said he didn't know if he was ever going to coach again, but he wanted to leave open the opportunity for coming back.

Meyer apparently couldn't stay away. He never took any time off and instead began recruiting immediately after the Gators' victory against Cincinnati in the Sugar Bowl.

This latest twist of As Urban Meyer's World Turns comes 10 days before National Signing Day. Meyer and the Florida program on Saturday played host to prospect Ronald Powell of Moreno Valley, Calif., on an official visit. Powell is the No. 1-rated recruit in the nation, according to Rivals.com. He is being pursued by Florida and Southern California, now coached by Meyer's archenemy, former Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin.

"It's game day," Meyer said. "It's game day for 10 days."

Meyer said that he will undergo tests on his heart in February but wouldn't elaborate. When asked if he was undergoing stress tests, Meyer said, "Everything."

"I'm not going to get into it publicly," Meyer said.

Nearly as odd as Meyer's offseason drama has been the way the Florida football program has responded to it. It hasn't affected the program negatively. In fact, the opposite has been true. Florida annihilated Cincinnati in the bowl game, and quarterback Tim Tebow set a BCS bowl record for total yards.

Not long after the bowl victory, Florida's recruiting class began coming together. Meyer recently received commitments from several of the nation's top prospects, including safety Matt Elam of West Palm Beach, Fla., who was recently named the state's Mr. Football. Elam, who already is enrolled at Florida, was recognized at halftime of Saturday's basketball game for his award.

Florida athletics director Jeremy Foley said that he was happy "with the direction" the football program is headed but also said Meyer "knows what he has to do, and there are still some things he has to do."

One of Meyer's most important tasks of the past month was replacing longtime defensive coordinator Charlie Strong, now the coach at Louisville. Meyer said he hired former Miami Dolphins inside linebackers coach George Edwards after consulting with Dolphins coach Tony Sparano and former defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni.

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