It's official: UF hires Roper as coordinator
Published: Thursday, December 26, 2013 at 9:56 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, December 26, 2013 at 9:56 a.m.
In his attempt to fix Florida’s broken offense, coach Will Muschamp made what will be considered his most important move, officially announcing the hiring Thursday of coordinator Kurt Roper.
The Kurt Roper file
Hometown: Ames, Iowa
Education: 1995 - Bachelor's Degree from Rice University; 1998 - Master's Degree from the University of Tennessee
Family: He and his wife, Britt, have one daughter, Reese, and one son, Luke
2013: Duke (Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks). 2008-12: Duke (Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks). 2006-07: Tennessee (Running Backs). 2005: Kentucky (Quarterbacks). 2002-04: Ole Miss (Passing Game Coordinator/Quarterbacks). 1998-2001: Ole Miss (Quarterbacks). 1996-98: Tennessee (Graduate Assistant, Defense & Special Teams).
Roper, who comes to Florida from Duke, where he’s been the offensive coordinator for the past six seasons under coach David Cutcliffe, becomes Muschamp’s third offensive coordinator in four years. Roper was one of five finalists this season for the Broyles Award, which goes to the nation’s top assistant coach. He will make $600,000 a year at UF, The Sun has learned.
Roper, a veteran playcaller, has a reputation for developing quarterbacks and adapting a balanced scheme based on the ability and strengths of his players. Last season, the Blue Devils’ offense finished the regular season 49th in the nation in scoring (31.6 points a game) and in total yards (408.1 yards).
But whatever his Florida offense turns out to be — whether it’s a no-huddle, up-tempo spread or more of a traditional two-back, pro-style look — there will be a simple and basic philosophy behind it, he said.
“Our core philosophy will never change,” Roper said on a conference call Thursday. “We want to get them lined up and set with motion, snap the ball before the play clock runs out and we want the ball at the end of the play.
“Those things are what we will coach. Coaching is not plays or formations. It’s about how to make decisions and how to play the game with effort.”
Roper, who interviewed for the job with Muschamp in Gainesville on Monday and reports broke Tuesday that he had been offered and accepted the job. He will remain with Duke through the Blue Devils’ game against Texas A&M in the Chick-fil-A Bowl on Tuesday night. Roper replaces Brent Pease, who was fired three weeks ago after his second season at UF.
When he gets to Gainesville, one of Roper’s first priorities will be to get to know the players he’s going to be coaching and try to get a feel for what they do best (and what kind of scheme will fit them best). He said he’s not familiar with UF’s personnel, other than he knows Jeff Driskel is the quarterback.
“The biggest thing is you’ve got to find out your strengths of your quarterback and find out the strengths of your offensive line,” he said. “Once you identify those things, you can start putting together what you’re going to hang your hat on offensively.
“Then find out who can make something happen with the football. Find a way to get those guys the football. Create formations based on that.”
Muschamp has said he wants to go with more of an up-tempo offense, a style that has worked for Roper in the past and one he’ll likely try to incorporate in his first Florida offense.
“It obviously can cause some defensive problems,” he said. “But we’ll never sacrifice execution for tempo. We want to play fast, but we still want to play smart and take care of the football.
“You’ve got to find out what your quarterback and offensive line are capable of doing.”
It’s an approach that certainly has worked for Roper at Duke, where he’s had three 3,000-yard passers and four 1,000-yard receivers. His 2012 offense set the school record for points in a season with 410 (31.5 a game). This season, his two quarterbacks (Anthony Boone and Brandon Connette) have combined to throw for 3,045 yards and 25 touchdowns and rush for more than 600 yards.
"I'm excited to have Coach Roper join our staff," Muschamp said in a news release. "He has a diverse, up-tempo background on offense and does a good job of adapting to what the players do best. The most important thing though, is he has always remained balanced. He has had success calling plays in the SEC and has tutored three NFL quarterbacks. He has had players produce at every offensive position and he is one of the most well-respected coaches in the country."
Roper has worked for Cutcliffe for most of his career. He spent six seasons with Cutcliffe at Ole Miss, where he was the quarterbacks coach, passing game coordinator and playcaller, and the last six at Duke.
Roper also has coached at Tennessee (2006-07) and Kentucky (2005), where he worked with UK offensive coordinator Joker Phillips, who is now UF’s wide receivers coach.
“His style would be intensity, tempo and quality of repetition,” Cutcliffe said of Roper. “From the minute they hit the field, it’s going to be intense. I wouldn’t call him a laid-back football coach by any stretch of the imagination.
“He’s going to be what we call treat the ground like a hot stove. If you hit the ground, you better get up running, and by the time they get on the field until they get off, they’re going to be moving and getting a bunch of quality reps. I would call (his style) very intense.
“His work ethic ... that’s what it’s all about. They’ll be prepared. They’ll be prepared well.”
In Phillips, Roper will be rejoining an old friend. Roper said it was Phillips who first introduced him to the no-huddle, up-tempo offense when the two were at Kentucky.
“That was my first experience with it,” Roper said. “Joker and I get along great. He’s a heck of a football coach. We’re really good friends.”
Roper said he’s also looking forward to coaching at Florida (where he’ll also be the quarterbacks coach) and working with Muschamp.
“Coach Muschamp is really excited about the future there,” Roper said. “He’s excited about the talent level that he has there. He’s excited about the opportunity Florida has to compete for championships. That, obviously, is something that I’m very interested in doing.
“I don’t have any limitations or preconceived thoughts going in. I’m going down there to try and coach to the best of my ability and try to win games and win championships.”
Now that Muschamp has his new offensive coordinator on board, he’s expected to name a new offensive line coach soon.
Roper was asked if he’ll have any impact on who Muschamp hires.
“Coach Muschamp is the guy that’s going to make the hires for this program,” he said. “We’ll obviously have discussions.
“We’re all going to be on the same page. It’s not just Coach Muschamp and myself. It’s everyone involved offensively, but Coach Muschamp is going to make the hire.”
Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also check out Andreu's blog at Gatorsports.com.