For three years under Will Muschamp the offense has sputtered as two offensive coordinators have tried to fit a square peg into a round hole.
Will Muschamp’s desire to run a pro-style system; despite having a roster full of players who were recruited to play in Urban Meyer’s spread option offense has caused headaches for both the Gators and people watching them at home.
The trend looks like it will be bucked with Muschamp’s newest offensive coordinator hire — his third in four seasons.
Former Duke offensive coordinator Kurt Roper — he will stay on the Duke staff through their December 31st bowl date with Texas A&M — met with the media on Thursday and made it clear that he will not be bringing an offensive system to Florida, rather forming a system to the talent on the roster.
“I think the biggest thing is you got to find out the strengths of your quarterback and the strengths of your offensive line,” Roper said. “Once you find those strengths then you can start putting together what you’re going to start hanging your hat on offensively.”
Roper knows that everything starts up front and with his signal caller but that’s not where the buck stops.
“Then the other five players you have to find out who can make something happen with the football,” he said. “If it’s running backs, if it’s tight end or if it’s wide receivers then you try to find the way to get those guys the football and you create personnel or formations based on that.”
Roper has little knowledge of the personnel at Florida at this time. He has been coaching at Duke for the past six seasons and helped lead the team to 10 wins and a bowl game this season. He is currently focusing on preparing the Blue Devils to take on the Aggies of Texas A&M, which will be the last game with a long-time friend and mentor in David Cutcliffe.
“His style would be intensity, tempo, and quality of repetition. From the minute they hit the field it’s gonna be intense,” Cutcliffe said of Roper. “He’s not a– I wouldn’t call him a laid back football coach by any stretch of the imagination. So it’s gonna be what we call treat the ground like a hot stove. If you hit the ground you better get up running and you know by the time they get on the field until they get off they’re gonna be moving and getting a bunch of quality reps so I would call it very intense.”
Roper is no stranger to the SEC having coached at Tennessee and Ole Miss. He also is very aware of the expectations at Florida and eager to take the next step in his career.
“You know, obviously, the expectations are high, and they should be,” Roper said. “They’ve won a lot of games at Florida and won a lot of championships at Florida, and so obviously the expectations are going to be high, you know, anywhere in the SEC”
With the hiring of Roper, Muschamp has just one more position to fill — an offensive line coach. Roper said that the decision ultimately lies on Muschamp’s shoulders but he and the rest of the offensive staff will have a say in the hire.
“Obviously, coach Muschamp is the guy that is going to make the hires for this program. We’ll obviously have discussion and things like that, but we’re all going to be on the same page,” he said. “It’s not just coach Muschamp and myself. It’s going to be everybody that’s involved in the offense. It’s important that everybody is excited on the same page, but coach Muschamp is going to make the hire.”
After finishing the week with Duke, Roper will hit the recruiting trail for Florida before turning his attention to the offense and the Gators’ personnel. He will use the 15 spring practices and summer workouts to decide exactly what kind of offense Florida will run but he does have offensive principles that he won’t compromise.
“Our core philosophy will never change. It’s very simple but it’s the truth of the matter,” Roper said. “Our whole philosophy is five points: We want to get 11 people on the field. we want to get them lined up. We want to get them set with motion. We want to snap the ball before the playclock runs out, and we want the ball at the end of the play.”
Sounds pretty simple, but when tasked with taking an offense that hasn’t cracked the top-100 since 2010, it might be best to keep it simple.