It appears that a decision has been made on the next offensive coordinator for the Florida Gators. If all indications are correct the new OC will be Kurt Roper who is currently the OC at Duke. I know, your first reaction is Duke? Really? Aren’t they a basketball school?
Duke had one of its best seasons ever in 2013 winning ten games and going to the ACC Championship Game. I realize that’s about like winning the tallest dwarf competition but for Duke it is quite an accomplishment and they did it with Duke players. The ACC isn’t known for its dominating defenses and Duke struggled to score against the two best defenses they played but most teams find it more difficult to score against the better defenses they face. The Blue Devils did put up 48 points against Miami. That was a good bit more than Florida was able to muster. And again, it was with Duke players. They don’t exactly stack their roster with four and five star recruits.
There are two qualities that Roper appears to possess that should be of particular interest to the Gators and their fans. His offenses seem to adapt to available personnel and he has been involved in the development of three quarterbacks who have made it to the NFL.
Roper was with Duke head coach David Cutcliffe when he was at Ole Miss developing New York Giants’ star quarterback Eli Manning. At Duke, Roper developed both Thad Lewis (currently the Buffalo Bills quarterback) and Sean Renfree (a seventh round pick of the Atlanta Falcons in last year’s draft). This is important because the first requirement to a rapid turnaround of the Gators’ fortune is the fast development of Jeff Driskel. With the transfer of Tyler Murphy, Driskel is the only legitimate starting quarterback on the Gator roster. This is a major concern because Jeff has had a hard time staying healthy and has not developed as quickly as most Gator fans would like. This means that Roper will need to help Driskel improve quickly as well as prepare a backup in case Driskel is forced to miss time. Fortunately, Florida expects to have highly touted incoming freshman Will Grier for spring practice which might allow him to get up to speed enough to be serviceable if he is forced into duty in 2014. It certainly appears that a redshirt is unlikely for Grier.
Of course, none of this matters if the offensive line does not do a better job of blocking than it has in recent memory. I believe that there was never a cohesive working arrangement between Tim Davis and Brent Pease. I have no inside information on that, I based the speculation entirely on what I saw on the field and occasional talk of trying to simplify the blocking schemes. While there is not an abundance of depth along the offensive line there is enough returning talent and enough experienced returning talent for there to be hope of adequate blocking if the Gators can avoid many injuries to that unit. In 6-7, 310- pound JUCO Drew Sarvary, the Gators have a lineman who could provide some early help from the 2014 signing class. It will be important that the new offensive line coach is able to work well with Roper.
Another item of concern is the upcoming signing class. How will this hiring effect recruiting? Grier seems to be solid to Florida. Two other star offensive recruits Dalvin Cook and Ermon Lane seem to be wavering somewhat. While you never want to be depending on freshmen to contribute, the more talent you have available the more likely you will be to find enough playmakers to turn this thing around. This recruiting class is extremely important to Muschamp and the future of the Gators. It remains to be seen whether this hiring is sufficient to not only hold the current signing class together but also help the staff add a few more elite players. If so, this could be the beginning of the climb back to the top for Florida.