GAINESVILLE -- Outsiders -- especially much of the media -- see the current state of Florida’s football program as a cesspool of turmoil, risk and unmitigated stubbornness.
Kurt Roper sees it differently.
He sees opportunity.
Florida’s newest offensive coordinator, officially introduced Monday, called UF “a special place” and refused to shy away from the lofty expectations and potential do-or-die scenario of 2014.
“I thought it was a great opportunity for my career,” Roper said, who confirmed he will install an up-tempo scheme with lots of spread principles.
“Leaving Duke was never easy. I’m a guy that hasn’t moved much in this profession. I’ve been fortunate. It’s not easy. My brother works on that staff. I had to leave him. And I got two kids that were growing up with his two kids. So none of those decisions are easy. But I think it goes to show why this is such a right decision, for me to walk away from that situation is I think this is a great opportunity.”
A longtime Lieutenant of Duke head coach David Cutcliffe, Roper said he came to Gainesville because “Florida is one of the obvious mainstays of college football,” and “it’s a chance to compete for championships.”
Roper’s affable moxie and Southern drawl seem straight out of Mayberry, but the 18-year assistant is hardly in store for any wholesome fun in Gainesville this offseason.
The quarterbacks guru and well-regarded playcaller -- hired on Dec. 26 -- is tasked with transforming UF’s dumpster fire attack into an explosive offense -- one that’s finished in the bottom-20 nationally (No. 113, No. 103, No. 105) for three consecutive seasons and has started five different quarterbacks in the past three years.
Roper inherits an attack devoid of direction, development and depth. Late in Florida’s 4-8 season -- its first losing campaign in 34 years -- coach Will Muschamp called the offense’s struggles “infectious” and now the unit’s improvement (however quantified in 2014) likely holds the fate to Muschamp’s future with the Gators.
“The expectations are obviously high, but that's a good thing,” Roper acknowledged. “That's why you end up with good football players here because they want to come to a place where winning has happened and winning will happen again. … I think every coach understands winning is the bottom line in this profession, no matter where you go.”
Roper further scoffed at any one-and-done urgency, saying, “I don’t think I’ve ever gone into any season not thinking we couldn’t win. All the tools are going to be in place for us to go and win football games. And we’ll learn more about the players that we have in place here. But obviously, there’s guys that can catch the football, run the football, throw the football, and we’ve got to figure out the best way to structure it to put those guys in place to do that.”
Muschamp, who hired his third offensive coordinator in four seasons, said he “had a little more time” to research his latest hire, honing in on Roper following a detailed search.
“We needed to be more tempo. We needed to create more snaps. We needed to create more space plays,” Muschamp said. “I formed about four or five candidates that I felt had serious interest in the job and Kurt Roper's name kept coming up.”
While Muschamp has seemingly embraced a different offensive philosophy, Florida’s coach continued to preach “balance” and again denied the assertion he’s handcuffed his two former coordinators (Brent Pease, Charlie Weis).
“I have called that many plays since I’ve been at the University of Florida,” Muschamp said, making a zero with his hand.
“[Kurt] will have the autonomy to run the offense and stay balanced.”
And yet, Roper never mentioned the word balance during his 20-minute session with the media.
His philosophy is much simpler and less measured: score points.
“Our whole philosophy on offense is points per game,” he explained. “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. … If you can play the game with some tempo and speed and you can play it in space, you can create as many 1-on-1 tackle opportunities as you can.”
Points over platitudes -- for the January win, at least.
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