Posted: 8:46 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 26, 2013
By Andy Hutchins
Florida has its man — and is bringing its first coach to the Gators football program from Duke since Steve Spurrier.
Florida has hired Duke offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Kurt Roper to the same positions on its staff, the school announced through GatorZone on Thursday.
"I'm excited to have Coach Roper join our staff," Muschamp said. "He has a diverse, up-tempo background on offense and does a good job of adapting to what the players do best. The most important thing though is he has always remained balanced.
"He has had success calling plays in the SEC and has tutored three NFL quarterbacks. He has had players produce at every offensive position and he is one of the most well-respected coaches in the country."
GatorZone writer Scott Carter also writes that Muschamp "tabbed" Roper for the offensive coordinator job on Thursday:
Muschamp met with Roper earlier in the week and tabbed him Thursday to replace Brent Pease, Florida's offensive coordinator the past two seasons.
Roper will serve in his current role for Duke during the team's 2013 Chick-fil-A Bowl game against Texas A&M.
ESPN's Edward Aschoff was first to report that Florida would hire Roper on Tuesday, with CBS Sports' Bruce Feldman and Laura Keeley of the (Raleigh) News & Observer each following with confirmations. Many reporters, led by FLORIDA TODAY's David Jones and The Gainesville Sun's Pat Dooley, reported Thursday morning that Florida would announce the hire shortly.
Roper spent six years on David Cutcliffe's staff at Duke, and has been a Cutcliffe lieutenant for about 15 years, dating back to a stint from 1996 to 1998 as an assistant under Cutcliffe while the then-Tennessee offensive coordinator coached the Peyton Manning-helmed Vols. He served as Cutcliffe's quarterbacks coach during his six-year stint from 1999 to 2004 at Mississippi, and was the Rebels' passing game coordinator from 2002 to 2004, spent a year coaching quarterbacks under Rich Brooks (and alongside Florida wide receivers coach Joker Phillips) at Kentucky, and returned to Tennessee in 2006 to coach running backs for two seasons. As such, Roper was the primary college position coach for Eli Manning and Arian Foster — two names you might have heard.
Roper was also named a finalist for the 2013 Broyles Award, given annually to the nation's best assistant coach. (Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi won the award.) Here's his (amusing and appealing, in my view) speech at the ceremony.
Roper will be tasked with resurrecting a Florida offense that has fallen from a peak during Urban Meyer's years with Tim Tebow to a valley of triple-digit rankings and anemic performances — Florida's injury-ravaged offense failed to score more than 20 points in its last seven games under Brent Pease in 2013, all losses. And even merely scoring exactly 20 points in all of those games would have gotten Florida a 6-6 record; had Florida managed 27 points in all of those games, the Gators would have finished the regular season 8-4.
Roper's last two offenses at Duke have produced 31.6 and 31.5 points per game in 2013 and 2012, respectively — and have been held under 20 points just five times in the 26 games Duke has played since the beginning of the 2012 season.
Roper's arrival could mean the departure of Florida tight ends coach Derek Lewis, who has been scarce on the recruiting trail of late, and was not, apparently, part of the party that saw him on his visit to Gainesville on Monday, which included Muschamp and running backs coach Brian White. Kurt Roper's brother, Zac Roper, serves as Duke's tight ends coach and special teams coordinator, and a move to Florida with Kurt would make sense for Zac. But Adam Rowe of Blue Devil Lair, Rivals' Duke site, reports that Kurt Roper is the only Duke coach expected to depart Durham.
Roper is the first coach Florida has hired from Duke since hiring Duke head coach Steve Spurrier as the program's head coach in 1990. That worked out, as you may recall.
Roper's offense is the most prolific in Duke history save for Spurrier's, though, with the 2012 offense producing the second-most yards in school history (behind Spurrier's 1989 offense) and the second-most passing yards in school history (behind Spurrier's 1988 offense). With bowl game statistics added, the 2013 Duke offense should eclipse Spurrier's for total offense.
And Roper has had success against Florida in The Swamp, as Coaching Search's Pete Roussel pointed out on Tuesday. He was Mississippi's offensive coordinator in 2002 and 2003, when Eli Manning-led Ole Miss teams downed Ron Zook-coached Florida squads home and away. Mississippi racked up 485 yards in its 2003 visit to Gainesville, and put together a game-winning drive that punched in the deciding touchdown with 1:10 to go in a 20-17 victory.
Now, focus will shift from Florida's offensive coordinator search to Roper's fit — which I will argue is good, despite Roper's lack of name recognition among Florida fans — to Florida's search for an offensive line coach to replace Tim Davis. Expect harmony with Roper to be a focus of that search after reports that conflict between Davis and Pease contributed to the failures of the 2013 offense.