The one stat that sticks out like a sore thumb and is a source of frustration for the entire Gator nation in the Will Muschamp era is total offense. Total offense is the combined total of rushing and passing yardage into the single stat of yards per game. When it comes to yards per game, the Gators haven’t finished higher than 10th in the Southeastern Conference since Tim Tebow’s final season in Gainesville.
But yards doing equal points. Take the Miami game from a season ago, for example. Florida gained 413 yards but only managed to put 16 points on the board. On the other end of the spectrum, go back two years to a win over South Carolina at home. The Gators gained a measly 183 yards but lit up the scoreboard for 44 points.
You win football games but getting into the end zone and putting points on the scoreboard, not by outgaining your opponent. That’s why new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper isn’t concerned with having a high-flying offense that will put up 400 yards of offense by halftime. He just wants points.
“Our whole philosophy on offense is points per game,” Roper said at his introductory press conference. “It’s not yards, it’s not going up and down the field, it’s how many points we can get. Hopefully we’re a PPG team is what we get down to. But I think playing the game in space creates more opportunities to score points.”
Florida finished dead last in the SEC in terms of scoring points — 18.8 per game. Florida hasn’t finished in the top half of the SEC in that statistical category since — you guessed it — Tebow’s final season in orange and blue.
How will the Gators turn that around? It begins by changing the offensive philosophy from one of holding on to the football, not making mistakes and allowing the defense to rest to one that hurries up to the line and tries to fire plays off as quickly and efficiently as possible. The high tempo offense also plays to Florida’s biggest asset. The ability to recruit speed.
Florida is one of the most talent laden states in the high school ranks and its chief commodity is an abundance of speed. Urban Meyer realized that when he came to Gainesville. He said he wanted to have the fastest team in American and, outside of NFL teams; he achieved that to great success on the field.
Will Muschamp’s offensive coordinators have slowed the offense down, playing not to make mistakes and give games away while relying on crippling defenses to put them in positions to score points.
Roper will change that. The staff has already sent out a flurry of new scholarship offers to playmakers across the state of Florida and from outside of the state. Roper knows he doesn’t have a long time to turn things around but believes that he has both the talent and the time that he needs to get the job done.
“I think the biggest thing is installing our offense,” he said. “I think our guys understand it we’re going to find some playmakers and can produce yards and produce points with what we’re going to do offensively. I think the undertaking is like any undertaking. Let’s get started; right now it’s January we’ll get into our offseason conditioning program, get through spring and we’ll get into fall and get ready to play the season and then we’ll try to be the best offense we can possibly be. But to me it’s no different than any other year.”
Despite a 4-8 2013 campaign, the expectations remain high. Roper knows this and he isn’t one to shy away from expectations. He’s faced high expectations in the past while at Ole Miss with Eli Manning and he’s faced no expectations, picked to finish 10th in the ACC last season at Duke. Roper doesn’t worry about outside noise, rather focusing on things he can control.
Roper was the fourth coach to meet with the media last Monday. After almost an hour of questions to Will Muschamp, Mike Summers and Coleman Hutzler, the man of the hour strode to the podium that sits just behind the endzone he wants his offense to find often next season and proclaimed, “I know there can’t possibly be anymore questions after all of that.”
He was met with possibly the most simple, yet complex question he will face; why Florida? Why leave your mentor in David Cutcliffe and a school where the expectations and pressure pale in comparison to your new university?
“I guess my answer to that is it’s the University of Florida, one of the obvious mainstays in college football,” he explained. “This is a great university with a history and a lot of championships. The year before they went to the Sugar Bowl, so obviously there’s a lot of good football players on this team. I think it’s a chance to come and compete for championships.”
It wasn’t the University of Florida in 2013. What happened on the football program isn’t the brand of football that the University of Florida has become known for. However, Muschamp believes that this is the man that can turn things around offensively and bring the Gators back to the top of the SEC and national scene.
“I think every coach understands winning is the bottom line in this profession, no matter where you go,” Roper said. “That’s all our goal when we get up there and go to work.”