Fast tempo with UF’s Roper
Published: Monday, January 13, 2014 at 4:51 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 13, 2014 at 4:51 p.m.
While many might see extreme risk in his decision to leave David Cutcliffe and a stable situation at Duke to join Will Muschamp and the uncertainty of a Florida program coming off a 4-8 season, Kurt Roper sees opportunity.
“I thought it was a great opportunity for me and my family to come and just get associated with a great program,” Florida’s new offensive coordinator said Monday. “I think this university is special. I think this football program is special. Everything that I knew about Coach Muschamp, competing against him and as a man is just another great opportunity to be associated with what I think is a heck of a football coach.
“So, I thought it was a great opportunity for my career, No. 1. Leaving Duke was never easy. I’m a guy that hasn’t moved much in this profession. I’ve been fortunate. No, it’s not easy. My brother works on that staff. I had to leave him. And I got two kids that were growing up with his two kids.
“So, none of those decisions are easy. But I think it goes to show why this is such a right decision for me to walk away from that situation, because I think this is a great opportunity.”
Coming off UF’s first losing season since 1979, Muschamp finds himself firmly on the hot seat. To have any chance to get off (and possibly secure his job), the Florida offense has to get fixed, has to start moving up and down the field and scoring points in 2014.
That’s where Roper comes in. He’s the guy responsible for the fix, for taking an offense that was 112th in the nation last fall and making it functional and capable of winning games — and possibly saving Muschamp’s job.
It’s a big, potentially complicated challenge that comes with a lot of pressure (and risk). But Roper sounds optimistic.
“Our whole philosophy will be based on what the quarterback position is able to do; what the five offensive linemen are capable of doing and then who earns the right to get the football on the field,” he said. “I think the biggest thing is installing our offense.
“We're going to find some playmakers who can produce yards and produce points with what we're going to do offensively. I think the undertaking is like any undertaking.
“Let's get started. Right now it's January. We'll get into our offseason conditioning program, get through spring and we'll get into fall and get ready to play the season and then we'll try to be the best offense we can possibly be. But to me it's no different than any other year."
Like he successfully did at Duke, Roper plans to transform the Gators into more of a spread, up-tempo, no-huddle offense led by a quarterback who will be asked to make plays with his arm and his legs.
Roper has been looking at tape of the players he’s inheriting, but he said he’s not going to make any judgements on guys, including the quarterbacks, until he has a chance to evaluate everyone on the field this spring.
“My whole thought process is we're going to watch guys, see where to start them and then develop my opinions through spring practice,” he said. “I want to develop my opinions through meetings with guys who are handling things on and off the field the right way, with accountability and those type of things.
“I don't want to develop opinions sitting and getting somebody else's thought on a guy or watching tape and not knowing exactly what the thought process is on a guy. We'll watch some tape and get some ideas where we want to start guys and then I want to develop those opinions on the grass."
Roper was asked if he thinks the tools are in place for the offense to be successful in the fall.
“Well, I think my answer to that is I don’t think I’ve ever gone into any season not thinking we couldn’t win,” he said. “So, I think obviously all the tools are going to be in place for us to go and win football games. And we’ll learn more about the players that we have in place here.
“But, obviously, there are guys that can catch the football, run the football, throw the football, and we’ve got to figure out the best way to structure it to put those guys in place to do that. But, obviously, I think there are some really good football players here.”
Those players are facing the challenge of learning their third offense in three years. Under Charlie Weis and Brent Pease, the offense was very similar — a pro-style scheme with some variations. Roper’s up-tempo spread will be a somewhat radical departure from that.
So, is there enough time for the Gators to learn the offense and have it running up to speed by Aug. 30?
Roper said it can be done.
“The good thing about spring is you’re not game-planning,” Roper said. “You’re not having to get prepared to win a game on Saturday, so it is about player development, it is about player evaluation. So you have a bunch of time in spring to try to make those evaluations and learn who you have on the team and those things.
“And then you have another 29 practice opportunities in the fall to continue with that process. So, I think there is a bunch of time. I think coaches a lot of times, we always make things more dire than they really are. Fifteen practices are a lot of days.”
It’s Roper’s challenge, his opportunity. And, it’s his offense and he’s going to be free to run it, Muschamp said.
“He’ll have the autonomy to run the offense and stay balanced,” Muschamp said.
Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also check out Andreu's blog at Gatorsports.com.