GAINESVILLE -- Christmas officially came a day late for Gators fans.
Florida announced the hiring of Duke offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Kurt Roper to the same positions on its staff Thursday -- two days after ESPN.com first reported the news on Christmas Eve.
"I'm excited to have Coach Roper join our staff," UF head coach Will Muschamp said in a news release.
"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."
Roper, an 18-year coaching veteran and the Blue Devils offensive coordinator since 2008, is tasked with resurrecting a Florida offense ranked in the bottom-20 nationally for three consecutive seasons. Known as a quarterbacks guru, Roper is also charged with developing Jeff Driskel and five-star freshman signee Will Grier. Roper will serve as Florida's third offensive coordinator in four seasons under Muschamp.
“The expectations are high,” Roper awknowledged Thursday. “And they should be. They've won a lot of games at Florida and won a lot of championships at Florida.”
Roper will remain with the Blue Devils through Tuesday’s (New Years Eve) Chick-Fil-A Bowl game against Texas A&M.
While immediate details of Roper’s contract were not released, The Gainesville Sun reported he will make $600,000 annually.
Muschamp interviewed Roper for nearly seven hours Monday in Gainesville after receiving clearance from Duke head coach David Cutcliffe.
A longtime Lieutenant of Cutcliffe, Roper was named a finalist for the Broyles Coaching Award as the nation’s top assistant this season.
Cutcliffe was very complimentary of Roper, calling him “an intense coach” and “the total package.”
“I’ve known Kurt most of his adult life,” Cutcliffe said. “I’m very appreciative of all of his contributions whether it was at Tennessee, at Ole Miss and certainly here at Duke through the years. It’s been an enjoyable professional relationship and certainly a friendship.”
While not as ballyhooed as other prospective (and rumored) candidates, Roper is a highly regarded assistant recognized as a flexible offensive mind willing to run multiple systems to adjust to personnel.
Roper won’t hit the recruiting trail for UF until he’s settled in Gainesville next week, and admitted he was rather unfamiliar with Florida’s team.
“I know Driskel’s the quarterback and don’t know much beyond that,” he said, chuckling.
In 2013, Duke’s attack ranked No. 69 nationally in total offense (408.1 y/g) and averaged 31.6 points per game. The Blue Devils scored over 20 points 10 times in 2013. Under Brent Pease -- UF’s embattled offensive coordinator fired three weeks ago -- the Gators tallied 20-plus points just 13 times in two seasons.
“The biggest thing is you got to find out the strengths of your quarterback and the strengths of your offensive line,” said Roper on his philosophy. “Once you find those strengths then you can start putting together what you're going to start hanging your hat on offensively. … We want to play fast but we want to play smart and take care of the football.”
Roper has extensive experience in the Southeastern Conference and coached against Muschamp (while at LSU) three times as the playcaller at Ole Miss. He started his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Tennessee (1996-98), first connecting with Cutcliffe.
Roper then followed Cutcliffe to Ole Miss for six seasons, serving as the quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator where he tutored Eli Manning. After brief stops at Kentucky (quarterbacks coach, 2005) and Tennessee (running backs coach, 2006-07), Roper piloted a Duke offense that produced two 1,000-yard receivers in the same season (2012) and two 3,000-yard passers (Sean Renfree,Thad Lewis).
“Coach Muschamp is really excited about the future [at UF]. He's excited about the talent level that he has there. I think he's excited about the opportunities that Florida has to compete for championships,” Roper said. “I don't have any limitations or any preconceived thoughts going in. I'm going down there to coach to the best of my ability and try to win games and win championships."
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