Gators open spring practice with offense as focal point

Florida offensive coordinator Kurt Roper, at center, and head coach Will Muschamp, at right, talk during opening day of spring practice at Sanders Practice Field Wednesday. At far left is quarterback Jeff Driskel.

Doug Finger/Staff photographer
Published: Friday, March 21, 2014 at 6:30 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, March 20, 2014 at 7:31 p.m.

For the third time in four years, Florida coach Will Muschamp enters spring football with the same goal — installing an offense.

Entrusted with that job is new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper, who started the on-field portion of the process Wednesday with UF's first practice of the spring.

Muschamp spent most of the day on defense as he typically does, but he still took time to watch Roper at work.

“Just a really good teacher, very fundamental in his approach,” Muschamp said of Roper. “Certainly philosophically on the same page with me and what we want to do, and that's be balanced.

“We're not going to get away from running the football ... but I think (Roper is) just a really good teacher and more than anything just a positive guy. His positive energy is very contagious in the building. He's a very good, fundamental football coach.”

Roper will spend the next three-and-a-half weeks implementing his system and picking up the pace of the offense with more of an up-tempo, no-huddle attack.

However, Muschamp said they must be cautious with how much terminology and plays get thrown at the offensive players.

“You want to kind of have the theory of throwing it all on the wall, see what sticks,” Muschamp said. “Throw it back on the wall the next day, see what sticks. Pick it up and throw it back on the wall the next day, see what sticks. See who can retain, see who can handle the mental journey through spring. But as you install, you don't want to get away from techniques and fundamentals of playing good football.

“That's something each day that Kurt and I will sit down and (discuss). He's done it, too. This isn't his first rodeo. So we'll make sure we're giving our players enough to be successful, but we're not putting too much on their plate to where we're creating a lot of struggles within what we're trying to do.”

Playing time in the fall will be determined by which players can or can't pick up the new offense this spring.

“You have to take it from the meeting room to the field. That's part of our evaluation,” Muschamp said. “We're going to make game-day adjustments, but we (also) have to make practice adjustments.

“If you can't make the adjustments sitting out there with a great crowd for the first day — which I appreciate the great showing we had — but if you can't make the adjustment out there, you're not going to make it in front of 90,000 people.”

Muschamp said he and defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin will have to hold some things back on their side of the ball this spring so the new offense can be installed.

“There's a lot of give-and-take on what we can and can't do, because what we don't want to do is get too far ahead of the offense,” Muschamp said. “We're in the third year of our (defensive) scheme, and our older kids have a very good understanding of what we are and who we're going to be.

“The No. 1 priority, and D.J. understands it and our defensive players understand it, is the installation of the offense. I've explained that to our entire football team.”

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