gua: Gators hires Dolphins' linebackers coach

Published: Thursday, January 14, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 12, 2010 at 4:34 p.m.

Sources close to the Miami Dolphins confirmed last Thursday night that inside linebackers coach George Edwards is leaving to take the defensive coordinator's position at Florida.

Edwards, an assistant at UF under Steve Spurrier in 1991, is the most tenured member of the Dolphins' coaching staff, just completing his fifth season with the team. He has 11 years of NFL coaching experience, including one as a defensive coordinator.

Edwards, 43, has previous NFL coaching stints with Cleveland, Washington and Dallas. He was the defensive coordinator for the Redskins under Spurrier in 2003.

Before going to the NFL, Edwards, a former defensive standout at Duke, was an assistant at four schools - UF (1991), Appalachian State (1992-95), Duke (1996) and Georgia (1997).

The hiring of Edwards will complete Urban Meyer's coaching staff.

With an assist from interim head coach Steve Addazio, Meyer has moved quickly to replace two of the three assistants on his staff departing for Louisville.

Last Tuesday, Meyer and Addazio announced the hiring of D.J. Durkin, who will coach the linebackers and special teams at UF, and Stan Drayton, the former running backs coach at UF under Meyer who spent the last two seasons at Tennessee and Syracuse in the same role.

Durkin will coach the position group that former defensive coordinator Charlie Strong coached at Florida (linebackers). Drayton replaces running backs coach Kenny Carter, who is joining Strong's staff at Louisville.

"Coach Addazio and I worked together on this and we are excited to have D.J. and Stan join our coaching staff," Meyer said in a UF release. "Both guys are familiar with the plan we have for our program, our coaches and our student-athletes. It will be a smooth transition, and they both bring a high level of expertise to the table and have proven to be good recruiters."

Durkin, 31, spent the last three seasons at Stanford, where he coached the defensive ends and coordinated the special teams. He joined the Cardinal after serving two seasons on the coaching staff at Bowling Green, his alma mater.

If, as expected, Durkin also coaches the UF special teams, he will be taking some of the coaching responsibility off Meyer, who has coordinated the Gators' special teams in his five seasons at UF. Durkin and Meyer have a past connection. Durkin was a defensive graduate assistant for the two years Meyer was the head coach at Bowling Green (2001-02).

Following his two-year stay at Bowling Green, Durkin was hired by Notre Dame as a defensive assistant with concentrated duties on the defensive ends. In 2004, he helped coach Justin Tuck, Notre Dame's all-time sack leader.

The hiring of Drayton is an interesting (and probably unexpected) move by Meyer. His stunning departure to SEC rival Tennessee after the 2007 season was somewhat controversial, especially after he made remarks in Knoxville that he wanted to coach running backs in a more traditional tailback rushing offense, which the Vols featured under Phillip Fulmer.

When Fulmer was fired after the 2008 season, Drayton was hired to coach the running backs at Syracuse this past season.

Without saying anything, Florida tight end Aaron Hernandez pretty much let everyone know he planned to leave early for the NFL when he threw the ball high into the stands after catching a touchdown pass against Florida State back in November.

He followed through with that statement toss last Wednesday, announcing he was declaring for the NFL draft on the same date that his father died four years ago.

"It is really special for me to take this first step toward my lifelong dream of playing in the NFL on the fourth anniversary of my father's passing," Hernandez said. "I know he would be proud of not only me, but of my whole family, whose love and support are the only reasons I am where I am today.

"My three years at Florida provided me with the foundation I need to succeed as a player and a person. I am eternally grateful for Mr. Foley (athletic director Jeremy Foley) and coach (Urban) Meyer and the entire Gator coaching staff for bringing me to Florida and serving as my family away from home. They were constantly pushing me to become a better player and, more importantly, a better person. I am so grateful for their guidance and support."

Hernandez, a junior from Bristol, Conn., is projected as a probable second-round pick coming off a monster 2009 season in which he earned first-team All-America honors and won the John Mackey Award, the first SEC player to do so. He was the nation's top pass-catching tight end with 68 receptions for 850 yards.

Hernandez's early departure will leave the Gators with two scholarship tight ends on their roster this spring - redshirt freshman Desmond Parks and incoming freshman Gerald Christian, an early enrollee.

Florida did not reach its goal of winning back-to-back national championships this season, but the Gators continued what has been a remarkable run of recent success.

With their second consecutive 13-1 season, the Gators finished No. 3 last Friday in both The Associated Press and Coaches' final polls.

Florida is the only school in the nation to finish in the top three in the AP poll in three of the last four seasons, and the first SEC school in 30 years to post three top three finishes in a four-year span. Only one other school in SEC history has done it.

Going back to his final year at Utah, Urban Meyer's teams have had four top-four finishes in the past six years in the AP poll.

UF is ranked third behind national champion Alabama and Texas, which fell to the Tide 37-21 last Thursday night in the BCS Championship Game. The Gators' only loss came against the Tide in the SEC title game, 32-13. Florida rebounded with a 51-21 rout of undefeated Cincinnati in the Sugar Bowl.

Robbie Andreu is a Gainesville Sun staff writer.

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