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Bills hire Gators defensive coordinator Edwards

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — George Edwards' tenure as the Florida Gators defensive coordinator sure didn't last long.

Less than a month after joining Urban Meyer's staff, Edwards left one of the nation's top college programs Thursday to become the Buffalo Bills' defensive coordinator, reuniting him with newly hired head coach Chan Gailey.

"I feel like this is a great opportunity for me to come in and have a a chance to work with coach Gailey again," Edwards said in a release issued by the Bills. "I am excited to have the opportunity to come to Buffalo and look forward to getting started as quickly as possible."

Edwards has 19 years of coaching experience, including 12 in the NFL. He broke into the NFL with Dallas in 1998 as a linebackers coach as part of Gailey's first staff.

Edwards' abrupt about-face came 27 days after he was hired by Florida, and a day after the Gators unveiled what most recruiting analysts rated as the top recruiting class in the country.

With Meyer beginning a leave of absence, team spokesman Steve McClain said interim coach Steve Addazio will coordinate replacing Edwards.

Florida could promote Chuck Heater, who was named the team's co-defensive coordinator when Edwards was hired last month.

Although Edwards had been at Florida for four weeks, he wasn't very involved in the team's recruiting efforts that brought in three of the top defensive linemen in the country.

Gailey touted Edwards for bringing "a wealth of experience," and for his familiarity with numerous defensive schemes.

Edwards spent the past five seasons as the Miami Dolphins' linebackers coach, and previously spent two seasons with Washington, including the 2003 campaign as the Redskins' defensive coordinator.

Edwards immediately announced his intention to change the Bills defense from a 4-3 scheme (four linemen and three linebackers) to a 3-4.

"We will start from a 3-4 alignment," he said. "We're not going to give anything away about exactly what we'll do, but personnel will dictate what you can and what you can't do."

The Bills were the only AFC East team to play a 4-3 defense last season.

Personnel will be a question as Buffalo's defensive line is relatively undersized and lacks a true run-stuffing nose tackle, a key part of a 3-4 scheme.

Defensive tackle Marcus Stroud previously expressed concerns about how he would fit in a 3-4 scheme.

"I can't play nose (tackle), but I could adapt to that. But I don't want to," Stroud said last month as Bills players cleaned out their lockers a day after closing the season with a 6-10 record. Stroud added that he's open to playing any scheme so long as he's on the field.

Stroud is at least familiar with Edwards, who was the defensive line coach at Georgia in 1997 during Stroud's freshman season.

The move to a 3-4 likely would lead to defensive end Aaron Maybin making the switch to linebacker, a position better suited for his 6-foot-4, 250-pound frame. Used mostly as a backup defensive end last season, the rookie first-round draft pick struggled against heftier offensive linemen.

Another question is the status of the Bills' leading pass-rusher, Aaron Schobel, who continues to contemplate retirement. Schobel told The Associated Press on Thursday that he's still weighing his options and hopes to reach a decision within the next month.

Schobel said he's put his Buffalo-area home up for sale, but only because he intends to relocate his family permanently to his native Texas. If he returns to play for Buffalo next season, Schobel said he intends to rent.

At 32, Schobel completed his ninth season with the Bills and has four years left on a $50.5 million contract extension he signed before the 2007 season.