Meyer figuring out role for Gators
Published: Saturday, January 2, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 3, 2010 at 1:03 a.m.
Before he slips off into his indefinite leave of absence, Florida coach Urban Meyer will be meeting with his staff and UF officials to determine what role he will play in recruiting and filling out his coaching staff while he’s gone.
Perhaps the biggest concern at the moment is recruiting. National signing day is a month away and prospects will be making official visits to UF in the coming weeks. The Gators have 20 commitments at the moment, but several of those prospects are now looking elsewhere because of the uncertainty of Meyer’s future and the loss of members of his coaching staff.
When asked what role he will be playing in recruiting, Meyer said, “I’m going to do everything I can to keep this train going in the right direction. That will all be discussed in the next few days.”
Meyer also has two openings on his coaching staff that will have to be filled in the next couple of weeks. The Gators have to replace defensive coordinator Charlie Strong and cornerbacks coach Vance Bedford, who is expected to become Strong’s defensive coordinator at Louisville.
Meyer indicated after Friday night’s 51-24 victory over Cincinnati in the Sugar Bowl that he plans to return before the start of next season if his health issues are resolved in the coming months.
“In my gut, I feel I’ll be back,” Meyer said. “I want to make sure my family and health are No. 1. I’ve just got to get that right.”
Meyer said he is not sure yet what he will be doing during his leave.
“No, I don’t know (what it will be like not to coach),” he said. “I know that I’m anxious to get home. We’ll address the future when it’s the appropriate time.”
Meyer announced his resignation Dec. 26, saying the Sugar Bowl would be his last game. The following day, he reversed his decision, saying he would accept an indefinite leave of absence in the hopes of returning if he regained his health.
During the season, Meyer experienced chest pains due to stress. Those pains became severe the morning after the SEC Championship Game and he had to be hospitalized for a few hours.
In the days leading up to the Sugar Bowl, Meyer declined to answer questions about his health.
Now, he’s obviously headed for some downtime and a much-needed respite from the demands and stress of coaching an elite program.
“I’m going to sit back and force myself to reflect on what we’ve done the last (five) years,” Meyer said.
In his five seasons at UF, the Gators have won two national championships (2006 and 2008) and two SEC titles. With Friday’s victory, Florida has had back-to-back 13-1 seasons. The Gators had the same mark in 2006.
All-America quarterback Tim Tebow said he plans to spend some time with Meyer in the coming months.
When Meyer was asked what he would do during his leave, Tebow interjected, saying, “You better be looking forward to getting beat in some golf.”
Despite all the distractions created by last week’s events, Meyer’s team was focused and ready to play Friday night, producing perhaps its most complete performance of the season. Tebow set Sugar Bowl records for most passing yards (482) and total yards (533) and the Gators rolled up a record (659) total yards as a team.
“To sit here and worry about all the adversity we faced this season, we played 14 games and won 13,” Meyer said. “Every week it seemed to be something happening. I think these guys have been trained. They’re quality people from quality families. Usually, that’s a good correlation how you pull through stuff.
“We fight for each other, we play for each other, let’s go do it one more time. It’s a special group of players.”
The Gators will now head into the offseason without Meyer. Offensive coordinator Steve Addazio has taken over as the interim head coach.
Meyer’s absence is indefinite. Its length will be determined by his health. But he’s made it evident he plans to return if, and when, his health returns. That’s probably the message he will be relaying to recruits in the next few weeks.
Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or at email@example.com.
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