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Florida Gators and Urban Meyer each begin their own transition

NEW ORLEANS — Urban Meyer awoke Saturday morning, and for the first time in 22 years, he was not a full-time football coach.

The Florida coach began an indefinite leave of absence after Friday night's 51-24 Sugar Bowl victory over Cincinnati.

Meyer, 45, said he's unsure of what the future holds, how long he will be away from the game, or if his return is imminent.

Although offensive coordinator Steve Addazio has been named the interim head coach, Florida athletic officials and the coaching staff are expected to meet this week to work out full details of the transition — including how involved, if at all, Meyer will be in recruiting, and who will have the final say in hiring replacements for three assistant coaches.

Meyer resigned Dec. 26 then decided upon a leave the next day.

"In my gut I feel like I'll be back," he said Friday night. "I just want to make sure my family and health are No. 1. And I've just got to get that right."

Meyer's wife, Shelley, who is a nurse, said she can't venture a guess on how long it might take Meyer to recover. He has acknowledged severe weight loss and suffering from chest pains, including an episode that required him to be hospitalized in early December. He said he needs to focus on his health.

"I know that he's a coach," she said. "That's all we know so far, and we love these kids, and I know he's given every inch of himself, and that's why he needs this break right now."

Tebow's Triumph: With his Sugar Bowl record of 533 yards of total offense and a bowl MVP trophy in hand, Florida QB Tim Tebow said he is looking forward to the next chapter in his life and hopes for a shot to play in the NFL.

"I feel like I have a lot of things to improve on," he said. "I'll go out there and work extremely hard and give my best. And I just hope I get an opportunity to go do that."

Tebow finished his career as a starter with a 35-6 record, one national title (two overall) and a Heisman Trophy. But he hopes his legacy is about much more.

"I think as the last message I would want to leave is that I love what I did," he said. "I loved who I was around. I loved the coaches. I loved the players. I always tried my best to encourage them on and off the field, to make their lives better, to be someone that they wanted to be around, and someone that uplifted people's lives on and off the field, from fans to players on the team. And I just want my lasting message is when people think of me to think that I'm someone who loved the Lord, I'm someone who loved other people, and I did my best to make other people have better lives."

Haden eyes NFL: CB Joe Haden, according to several teammates, has played his last game as a Gator and will move on to the NFL. Considered a top 10 pick on several draft boards, Haden said he will announce his decision soon. TE Aaron Hernandez, DE Carlos Dunlap and offensive linemen Mike and Maurkice Pouncey are considering moving on. OL Carl Johnson said he plans to return.

Moody to have surgery: Junior RB Emmanuel Moody will have surgery Monday to remove bone spurs from his right ankle. He is expected to miss five to six weeks but said he hopes to return for spring practice.

Antonya English can be reached at english@sptimes.com.

Florida Gators and Urban Meyer each begin their own transition 01/02/10 [Last modified: Saturday, January 2, 2010 9:32pm]

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