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Gators coach Urban Meyer is ... BAAA-ACK! Says he's going to coach in spring; With thoughts from Jeremy Foley

GAINESVILLE -- Urban Meyer said on Saturday night at the basketball game that he's not taking a leave of absence and plans to coach the Gators during spring football. Here's what I want to know: Did anything really change over the last month? AND, was it any coincedence that Meyer dropped this news bombshell on the weekend super recruit Ronald Powell visited Gainesville?

ANYWAY, it's good news for the Gators and bad news for everyone else. Here's a copy of my story for Sunday's newspaper. Nice win by the Gators men's basketball team on Saturday, by the way. Florida defeated South Carolina 58-56 on a last-second shot by UF junior forward Chandler Parsons. Florida has won three straight since beginning its conference schedule 0-2. If the Gators keep this up, they'll be back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2007. Check Sunday's paper for my basketball story.

I'm heading to Mobile, Ala., the city of my birth, on Sunday for weeklong coverage of the Senior Bowl. I'll be writing about Tim Tebow, Dolphins, Canes and everything else that comes along. Of course, I'll only be blogging about the Gators.

-jo-

JOSEPH GOODMAN

jgoodman@MiamiHerald.com

GAINESVILLE — The most interesting thing about Urban Meyer’s “I’m back” press conference on Saturday was not something he said but rather his actions.

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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 on Saturday at halftime of the Florida men’s basketball game that he plans to coach spring football. Florida defeated South Carolina 58-56.

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“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.”

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Meyer said on Saturday 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 and 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.

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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.  

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This latest twist of As Urban Meyer’s World Turns comes 10 days before National Signing Day. On Saturday, Meyer and the UF football program hosted 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 Cal, which is now coached by Meyer’s archrival, former Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin.

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“It’s game day,” Meyer said. “It’s game day for 10 days.”

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National Signing Day is Feb.3. 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.”

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“I’m not going to get into it publicly,” Meyer said.

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Nearly as odd as Meyer’s offseason drama has been the way the UF 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-game record for total yards.

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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 Dwyer, who was named Mr. Football for the state of Florida earlier this week. Elam, who is already enrolled at UF, was recognized at halftime of Saturday’s basketball game for his award.

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Florida athletics director Jeremy Foley said on Saturday 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.”

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

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“I love Coach Edwards,” Meyer said. “He’s a great hire and I’ve known him for awhile and he came strongly recommended by a bunch of people and kind of blew us away when he came up here.”

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#30#

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