A few thoughts to jump start your Thursday morning.
THE NEW GUY
You won’t associate Kurt Roper’s name with the exotic spread offenses they run at Oregon and Baylor, but make no mistake about it, he’s a spread guy who uses tempo to his advantage. If you have followed the career of Duke head coach David Cutcliffe, who is Roper’s boss (for five more days) and mentor, then you know that he’s never been afraid to spread the field or use tempo to create matchup advantages and wear out a defense. There is a strong element of power football in the Cutcliffe offense and a commitment to the running game. It’s more conservative than what you see run at Oregon and Baylor, but part of that might have to do with needing to give a Duke defense that isn’t very deep, particularly in the trenches, some rest. Roper will have access to better and faster athletes than he’s ever had so it will be interesting to see just how much of a conservative stamp will be put on the Florida version of this offense.
ROPER’S OFFENSE AT DUKE
Here are four things you can know about Kurt Roper, the Duke offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach who is coming to Florida after the Blue Devils face Texas A&M in the Chik-fil-A Peach Bowl in Atlanta on New Year’s Eve: (1) When he has mobile quarterbacks he’s not afraid to let them run the ball; (2) he likes his quarterbacks to throw on rhythm and get rid of the ball; (3) he uses the tight end extensively and the running backs in the passing game; and (4) he is a tempo guy who seems to have three speeds designed to throw off the defensive coordinator’s substitution patterns; i.e., he’ll go no huddle with a quick snap; quick huddle and then read the defense at the line of scrimmage before the snap; and quick huddle, quick snap designed to get a free play when the other team is substituting.
ROPER’S OFFENSE AT DUKE, PART II
In 13 previous games in 2013, Duke has run 934 plays with about a 53% run/47% pass mixture. The Blue Devils averaged 173.69 rushing yards per game with two 500-plus rushers and two 300-plus rushers. Quarterbacks ran for 17 of Duke’s 25 touchdowns and accounted for a combined 520 rushing yards to go with 3,047 passing yards, good for 23 more touchdowns. In the passing game, wide receiver Jamison Crowder has caught 96 balls for 1,197 yards and seven touchdowns this year and has 186 catches for 2,434 yards and 16 touchdowns in his three-year Duke career. The tight end caught 40 passes this season and at least 32 every season since 2010. The passing game is all about wearing down pass rushers by getting rid of the ball in a hurry, often right over the head of speed rushers as a way to slow them.
THE NEXT OFFENSIVE LINE COACH?
The name that keeps popping into every conversation about Florida’s next offensive line coach is Stacy Searels, who coaches the O-line at Texas and will be a free agent starting next Tuesday after the Longhorns face Oregon in the Valero Alamo Bowl. Searels is a former Auburn All-American offensive tackle who worked at two SEC stops before Texas. He worked with Will Muschamp on Nick Saban’s LSU staff in 2003-04 (LSU won the national championship in 2003). Searels remained on the LSU staff with offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher when Les Miles took over in 2005. From 2007-10 he was the Georgia offensive line coach and for the last three seasons, he’s been at Texas where he currently knocks down a $425,000 annual paycheck.
THE NEXT OFFENSIVE LINE COACH? PART II
In Searels’ first three seasons at Georgia, his offensive line gave up only 42 sacks in 39 games. Knowshon Moreno rushed for 1,334 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2007 and 1,400 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2008. Georgia’s running game was inconsistent in 2009 due to a combination of injuries in the backfield and O-line and a first year quarterback. In 2010, when Aaron Murray was a freshman, the Georgia O-line gave up 25 sacks and the rushing yardage dipped to 141.6 per game. At Texas, the sack numbers have decreased each year that Searels has been there – from 26 in 2011 to 16 in 2012 to 14 this past season. Texas has run for 24 touchdowns this season while averaging 4.47 per rush and 197.6 yards per game.
KENT TAYLOR TO KANSAS
Kent Taylor was expected to be the next big thing at Florida when he signed with the Gators out of high school, but for a variety of reasons he never really developed. He caught two passes for five yards and a touchdown as a freshman then didn’t play at all in 2013. He announced he was transferring out following the Florida State game and announced that Kansas will be his next port of call when the next semester begins. Taylor is not a prototypical tight end but more of a hybrid or what his new head coach, Charlie Weis, would call a move guy, i.e., not a hand on the ground tight end but used primarily in flex and motion situations. As little as the Gators used the tight ends in 2013, it’s likely that Taylor was frustrated but it seems that if he had been patient, he would have been very happy with the new offensive coordinator, who makes the tight end a regular target.
THE GEORGIA SOUTHERN OFFENSE
Back when he was a Florida high school coaching legend, Tom Perrin called his offense “The Flying T.” When Erk Russell started the Georgia Southern football program from scratch in the 1980s, he brought the Flying T to Statesboro where it is simply known as the Georgia Southern offense now. It is a funky option offense that features one back, a slot and a wingback with plenty of motion and reverses. Georgia Southern and Navy have been using it for years but now it’s about to be used by two other Division I schools. Jeff Monken is taking the offense from Georgia Southern to Army, where he is the new head coach. Georgia Southern, which moves from Division IAA to Division I next year, is expected to hire a head coach who will keep the same offense intact.
THE VERY EARLY BCS NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME PREDICTION
Right now, I’m leaning toward Auburn to knock off Florida State in the national championship game. I lean that way because I think Auburn has been faced with adversity on many occasions this season and found ways to overcome. There was no adversity for Florida State and I have to wonder if the Seminoles are really that good or is the ACC such a pansy conference that a really good team – and the Seminoles are really good – doesn’t look better than it really is. If Auburn comes out and whips up a couple of touchdowns right off the bat, will the Seminoles respond or will they go into shock that someone is actually punching them in the mouth? That’s something I don’t know and unless I can come up with a better answer than I have now, I’m going with Auburn.
MUSIC FOR TODAY
Michael McDonald deserves a lot of credit for keeping the Doobie Brothers relevant after Tom Johnston’s health problems in the mid-1970s forced him to the sidelines for several years. McDonald’s style had more of a rhythm and blues slant, but Johnston created a classic rock sound that put the Doobies on the map. This is “Another Park, Another Sunday,” one of Johnston’s best songs from the Doobie Brothers’ “What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits” album in 1974.