Posted: 7:38 pm Saturday, January 23rd, 2010

What leave of absence? Urban Meyer says he plans on coaching the Gators’ spring practice 

By Post Staff

GAINESVILLE — Urban Meyer is no doctor, but he can at least tell he’s feeling better when he steps on the scale in the morning.

“I’m over 200 pounds. I guess that’s how I gauge it a little bit,” Meyer said Saturday at halftime of the Florida basketball team’s victory over South Carolina. “I was not good for a while, but I’m feeling better.”

So much better, in fact, that Meyer, who says he has re-gained the 20 pounds he lost during the 2009 football season, said he plans on coaching the Gators during their five-week spring practice in March and April. And so much better that he hasn’t been able to take much time away from his job as Florida’s head football coach, despite saying on Dec. 27 that he is taking an indefinite leave of absence from the Gators to focus on his health.

“I keep hearing about this time off,” Meyer said. “I tried that already. I tried a day and a half and it didn’t work.”

But Meyer is not in the clear when it comes to his health. Meyer said he has undergone “a series of tests” on his heart and other issues in his chest. He originally resigned from his position on Dec. 26 for health reasons. Meyer felt chest pains hours after the Gators’ loss to Alabama in the SEC Championship Game seven weeks ago and was rushed to the hospital after falling unconscious.

“So far, the tests are coming back pretty positive,” he said.

Meyer said two important people are forcing him to take time off after national signing day on Feb. 3: “My bride and my boss,” he said. “I’ve been instructed I have to (take time off). I’m just not sure what to do.”

After signing day, Meyer and his staff will determine each person’s role, especially offensive coordinator Steve Addazio, who will serve as interim coach.

“We’re trying to get to Feb. 3, and then we’re going to sit down, have an in-depth meeting about it,” Meyer said.

In the three weeks since the Sugar Bowl, Meyer and his staff have compiled the nation’s No. 1 recruiting class according to every major recruiting Web site. Meyer said the doctors won’t let him travel, but he’s been keeping busy by calling prospects on the phone.

Saturday, Meyer watched the basketball game with five-star recruit Ronald Powell, a defensive end from California. Meyer made sure Powell saw the gaudy national championship ring on Meyer’s right hand.

“Recruiting’s obviously going well,” Meyer said. “I have to change some things, I think, that’s obvious. But I’m excited about our staff. I’m really excited about our team.”

Meyer, speaking to the media for the first time since the Jan. 1 Sugar Bowl, also talked about a couple new coaches he has hired since the game: defensive coordinator George Edwards and running backs coach Stan Drayton.

Meyer said Edwards, the Miami Dolphins’ linebackers coach for five years, came highly recommended by Dolphins coach Tony Sparano and former defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni.

“I love coach Edwards. I’ve known him for awhile, came strongly recommended by many many people, and kind of blew us away when he came up here,” Meyer said.

Meyer also said he had no problems re-hiring Drayton, who coached at Florida from 2005 to 2007 but left in a huff because the Gators did not run the ball enough. Meyer said Addazio pushed hard to bring Drayton back.

“When he left, I realized I wish I had him back,” Meyer said.

Noteworthy: Former Dwyer star Matt Elam, who has enrolled at UF this semester, was honored at halftime for winning Florida’s Mr. Football award.