What can you do with three seconds?
It isn’t much time at all but it’s all the time that Kurt Roper will afford Jeff Driskel and his quarterbacks to catch a snap out of the shotgun, read a defense and deliver a pass to an open receiver.
“I think you have to build your offense around less than three seconds of pass protection,” Roper said. “I think that’s really where it starts.”
Florida allowed 27 sacks last season, 12th in the SEC. Sacks led to two quarterbacks being lost to season ending injuries and have been a problem the past two seasons in Gainesville with Florida coming in dead last in the SEC, allowing 39 sacks in 2012.
It’s a problem that Roper is attacking by imploring his quarterbacks to play faster. At open practice Roper can be heard shouting, “fast, fast, faster,” at his quarterbacks when they go into their drop and read the defense.
Sacks and quarterback hurries have been an issue. The stats back that up. The offensive line has drawn the ire of fans for the pass protection but Roper made sure to not single out the offensive line, saying that it’s a team effort that includes the line, quarterback and even receivers.
“It goes on to the quarterback as much as anything else or it goes to a running back or route running as much as anything else,” he said. “We talk all the time at the quarterback position, you’re working on less than three seconds, really about 2.8, it doesn’t mater what route concept we’re trying to throw, you gotta get the ball out.”
Much has been made this offseason about the offense having to adjust to a third offensive coordinator in four seasons. Learning a new playbook tends to force players to think about what they’re doing on the field rather than being able to play instinctually. Fortunately for Florida’s triggerman, the new offense is similar to the one he executed at Hagerty High School in Oviedo, Florida. The familiarity with the concepts and schemes that Roper is implementing has helped Jeff Driskel adapt and adjust to the new offense quickly, allowing him to meet Roper’s high standards for getting rid of the ball quickly.
“It’s relatively easy reads, a lot of progressions,” said Driskel. “Coach Roper’s big thing is get the ball out quick so that’s always something I can hang my hat on is get the ball out of my hand, move on the next play. Other than that, I just think it’s coming together really well.”
Roper is also instilling a short memory into his quarterback’s heads. Like a closer in baseball or a cornerback, he doesn’t want his passers to focus on their mistakes, rather learn from them and move on.
“If you tie a guy up too much to making mistakes he’s too afraid to make the next mistake,” Roper explained. “The example I like to give is everybody talks about a great corner having what? A short memory. Well, why do we allow corners to have short memories when they get beat on a touchdown but we don’t allow other people to have short memories when they make a mistake, if we say that’s what makes a good player a good player? That’s the mentality.”
Saturday Driskel and Roper will take center stage together for the first time in the Swamp. It will be the first opportunity for fans to get a look at live scrimmage reps and to see just how quickly Driskel has been able to pick up the offense.
It’s a first date, of sorts, with a fan base that grew apathetic towards the end of the 2013 season. Roper isn’t concerned with making a good first impression. He’s grown to trust his players, he trusts his scheme and believes that if the team plays the way they’re capable of playing the fans will enjoy watching the offense.
“Hey, let’s just go be us,” Roper told the offense. We’re gonna be who we are, we’re gonna do what we do and let’s go have some fun playing football.”
Video: Kurt Roper discusses what he has seen from Jeff Driskel this spring and how he thinks the quarterback is progressing.