Bills hire Edwards to switch defense from 4-3 scheme to 3-4

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- George Edwards' tenure as the University of Florida's defensive coordinator sure didn't last long.

Less than one month after he joined Urban Meyer's staff, Edwards left one of the nation's top college programs Thursday to become the Buffalo Bills' defensive coordinator and be reunited with Chan Gailey.

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"I feel like this is a great opportunity for me to come in and have a chance to work with coach Gailey again," Edwards said in a statement 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 the Dallas Cowboys in 1998 as a linebackers coach on Gailey's first staff.

Edwards' abrupt about-face came 27 days after he was hired by Florida and one 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, Florida 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, the Bills' newly hired head coach, 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 the Washington Redskins, including the 2003 campaign as their 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, one 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 the player's freshman season.

The Bills' move to a 3-4 scheme likely would lead to rookie defensive end Aaron Maybin switching to linebacker, a position better suited for his 6-foot-4, 250-pound frame. Used mostly as a backup defensive end last season, the 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 has put his Buffalo-area home up for sale but only because he intends to permanently relocate his family 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 that he signed before the 2007 season.

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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