GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- At 3:20 p.m. Wednesday, Florida coach Urban Meyer jogged through the gate onto the vast practice fields. Every Gator could officially and finally exhale. Their coach really did come back.
The real test of Meyer came a half-hour later, when the punt team began to work on the nearer of the Gators’ two grass practice fields. Meyer actually let his new special teams coordinator, D.J. Durkin, run the drill, with four other assistants helping out. Meyer considered the special teams his baby. He might bring along one assistant to help.
"I didn’t know what to expect," said Meyer. "Usually I’m more involved in the kicking game, little more involved in the offense. And I will be more involved. I think springtime I’m usually like this. Let these guys coach, and everybody do their job and see what we got. We got four new coaches."
At a coaches’ meeting a couple of days ago, Durkin was so thorough that Meyer thought, “OK, I can do this now.”
Do this, as in, stand and watch. During a kick-blocking drill at 5 p.m., Meyer stood a few paces away with his hands clasped behind his back and watched.
“I really like our coaches,” Meyer said. “Our special teams coordinator [Durkin], the eye of the tiger is on him and he did a good job. He did a great job today.”
At one point during practice, Meyer actually stood between the two fields and chatted with Maurkice Pouncey, the offensive lineman who in January declared for the NFL draft. Pouncey had been one of 17 Gators from the 2009 team who worked out for NFL scouts at the Swamp on Wednesday.
“How do you evaluate recruiting?” Meyer asked. “You go out at pro day in four years and see how you did.”
After practice, Meyer was asked how long he had been a full-time coach.
“Twenty-five years, or something like that,” Meyer said with a grin. Then he answered the question. “I’m not sure. I think two weeks, three weeks.”
And with one simple word, he gave the answer every Florida fan wanted to hear. Are you back for good?