Roper: Having Driskel at QB 'luck of draw'
Published: Thursday, March 27, 2014 at 5:05 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, March 27, 2014 at 6:27 p.m.
Taking over an offense that bordered on inept throughout most of a 4-8 season in 2013, many might be assuming that new Florida offensive coordinator Kurt Roper has stepped into a, to be kind, difficult situation.
But it may be hard to convince him of that, especially after hearing his thoughts Thursday on where the UF offense is, and where it may be headed, through the first half dozen spring practices.
Roper said the Gators have shown a good aptitude for learning his shotgun, uptempo attack and they're picking it up quickly.
He likes the talent he has to work with, saying he's got plenty of it to do all the things he wants to do in his offense.
And he really, really likes his quarterback, which is huge for any offensive coordinator installing a new offense. Or even one who isn't.
“He's really talented,” Roper said of junior quarterback Jeff Driskel. “I didn't get to see him much before I got here. I watched him in high school and knew he was heavily recruited and those things. I don't know that I was one of his choices, so now I get the luck of the draw here, I guess I should say.
“But that's a big, powerful, fast-twitch, natural throwing motion. He's talented, folks. I mean we're sitting here talking about a guy that's really, really gifted. And his experience shows whenever we have conversations. He understands football. It's not his first rodeo.
“I mean when we start talking coverages or fronts and how pressures are mirroring each other, he understands. So his eyes end up in the right places a lot right now.”
Roper said Driskel has been a quick study so far in the new offense.
“Now, it's working out all the new things. How we run curls, how we run digs, the depths of it,” Roper said. “How we run option routes and being on time and those things, you work it out. That's from now through the summer when he has to be in charge of it, when coaches can't be out there, through fall camp.
“But like I say, he has command of the football. And that's hard to teach. You either have it or you don't, and he has command of it."
Feeling good about his quarterback seems to be just one of the reasons Roper is feeling good about the offense, even though he's still early in the installation process.
Along with Driskel, Roper said the talent level at the skill positions is where it needs to be for the offense to be effective.
“Yeah, I think we're talented,” he said. “I think we've got some guys in space that can make plays.
“Obviously, we play a lot of three wide receiver sets, so that's fun to watch. But I think we've got some talent there, some experience there, some speed there, and it just has to keep growing. We've got guys at just about every position that have played a lot of football here, been in a lot of tough battles on the field.”
Roper said the one skill position that is unsettled at the moment is the H-back/tight end, which is called the “B” position in Roper's scheme.
“The thing we're trying to figure out first and foremost is the tight end/H-back in our offense,” he said. “Who's the guy that's going be the best in that situation? So, it's a fun battle to watch between all those guys that we're repping at that position.
“That 'B' position, because it's so different from what they were doing in the past, is probably the thing that we've got to watch the closest.”
Among those getting snaps at the position are fullbacks Hunter Joyer and Gideon Ajagbe and tight ends Clay Burton, Tevin Westbrook and DeAndre Goolsby.
"A lot more route-running and being spread out,” Joyer said of the new position. “Not too much I-stuff, the old familiar stuff that we used to do. So, it's pretty different."
The entire offense is different, but Roper said the players so far seem to be adjusting nicely and picking up things quickly.
“They're starting to understand it more and more every day,” he said. “The process is you add things to them every day. That's a challenge. Sometimes we're trying to fix mistakes from the day before but adding to their install on that day so it's hard to focus on correcting those mistakes when we're putting new things on them.
“I think they're doing a good job. What we've tried to do is create an offense that is easy for us to learn as possible but still complicated to defend. I think it's an offense that over time, over 45 practices before our first game, we'll have a pretty good understanding of it.”
It's still early in the installation process, but the players say they like the new offense.
"I would say (it's more exciting),” Joyer said. “It's a fast pace, so you're going full speed all the time. There's no waiting around and just sitting around in the huddle and just waiting on stuff. Just fast-paced and there's always action, so it's good."
"I feel right now our confidence is sky-high. Coach (Roper) is doing a great job building us up and keeping us positive. From the practices, it seems like we're going to put a lot of points up, so it's good."
Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also check out Andreu's blog at Gatorsports.com.
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