Roper, Florida offense have work to do

December, 27, 2013
12/27/13
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Forgive Kurt Roper if he can't recite a list of Florida's top playmakers on offense.

He's a little busy preparing to coach his final game for Duke -- the Chick-fil-A Bowl on Tuesday against a Texas A&M.

Besides, who can list Florida's top playmakers? It would be a short list anyway, filled mostly with recent high school prospects who have yet to make names for themselves.

"I’m obviously not very familiar at all right now," Roper said on Thursday. "I’ve just been focusing on this bowl game for the next week or so. And then I’ll start to get myself familiar. I know [Jeff] Driskel is the quarterback and don’t know much beyond that."

Rest assured, Roper will learn. Once he arrives in Gainesville, he'll begin the arduous task of adapting his offensive ideas to Florida's talent and vice versa. There will be a lot of film study, a lot of player evaluations, recruiting, meetings, teaching, more recruiting, etc.

Fortunately for Florida, Roper has done this before at Ole Miss and Duke. He has a system for implementing his systems.

"What we’re going to do, what we’ve always done, is you determine what your quarterback is good at executing. You determine what your five linemen are good at executing," he said. "Then through practice you determine who has earned the right to have the football, and you try to make your decisions based on that. …

"Once you find those strengths [at QB and OL], then you can start putting together what you're going to hang your hat on offensively. And then the other five players, you have to find out who can make something happen with the football. If it's running backs, if it's tight ends or if it's wide receivers, then you try to find the way to get those guys the football and you create your personnels or your formations based on that."

In Driskel, Roper will find a gifted athlete with size (6-foot-4, 237 pounds), speed and experience (15 career starts) going on his third offensive coordinator in his fourth year in the program.

Driskel took to Twitter on Thursday to send a message to Roper.



In just over a week, Florida expects prized commit Will Grier, the nation's No. 2 quarterback prospect, to enroll. He'll give Roper an ideal piece of clay to mold -- one that Roper has already worked with. Grier, from Davidson, N.C., participated in Duke summer camps in his ninth and 10th grade years.

"I like how he coaches," Grier said. "He's been around the game for a while, has a lot of experience, he's done a good job with a lot of quarterbacks. So, just that in itself, I'm excited about."

Grier said he looks forward to Roper's mix of pro-style, spread and uptempo elements in a freshly customized offense.

"It's kind of the same thing we do, I've done all throughout high school -- a pro-style thing with some spread," he said, "kind of a mixture of both and a little bit of everything. That's what Coach Roper is going to bring to us. He's been around for a while and he knows how to coach pretty much everything.

"I'm ready for whatever we do, and I think he's going to do what's best for the team and best in situations. That's kind of what I've already been used to in high school, so I don't think it will be a very hard transition."

On the offensive line, Roper will encounter a much-maligned and banged-up group, but one with potential. The Gators will have five upperclassmen in 2014 who have collectively made 64 starts. The same fivesome, however, also missed a total of 21 games to injury in 2013.

A big key will be the hire of a new offensive line coach. It's a hire Roper said will ultimately be made by Muschamp.

"We’ll have discussion and things like that, but we’re all going to be on the same page," Roper said. "It’s not just Coach Muschamp and myself. It’s going to be everybody that’s involved on offense. It’s important that everybody is excited and on the same page."

As for playmakers, Roper will find talent but not a lot of proven performers.

Two senior wide receivers have moved on and bequeathed the position to a cadre of youngsters. There are no tight ends to speak of. There are, however, several capable running backs.

"Coach Muschamp is really excited about the future," Roper said. "He's excited about the talent level that he has there. I think he's excited about the opportunities that Florida has to compete for championships. So that obviously is something that I'm very interested in doing and everywhere you go is a challenge.

"It doesn't matter where you're coaching, who you're coaching with or whatnot, everything's a challenge. It's just the next challenge is the way I look at it. I don't have any limitations or any preconceived thoughts going in. I'm going down there to coach to the best of my ability and try to win games and win championships."

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