Two days before spring practice ends with the 2014 Orange & Blue Debut, new Florida Gators offensive coordinator Kurt Roper met with the media to provide his final thoughts on his unit heading into Saturday’s spring game.
“LET’S GO SCORE SOME POINTS”
Fans that had time to attend got a sneak peak at Florida’s uptempo offense during the Gators’ open spring practices, but the rest of the base has been patiently waiting to see how Roper has turned around a downtrodden unit in just over two dozen practices.
Roper believes his group is ready to deliver and hopes that fans come away from the spring game confident in Florida’s ability to move the ball up and down the field in 2014.
“What you want to see from the offense is really, ‘Hey, let’s get the right personnel on the field, let’s get lined up, let’s get set with motion, get the ball snapped before the play clock runs out, and let’s have possession of the ball at the end of the play.’ If we’ll do those things and look like a well-coached offense and guys that are locked in, we’re going to make plays in this offense,” he confidently explained.
“That’s going to happen. There’s enough opportunities that will take place. The biggest thing is not beating ourselves, going out there and looking like a well-coached team.”
In order for that to occur, the players need to be as confident as their coach, which Roper believes they are even though the system is still quite new to these Gators. But he is not concerned about their confidence heading into the game. Rather, he wants to see the same thing as fans: points on the scoreboard.
“My job is, ‘Hey, let’s go out there and be a productive offense.’ Productive offenses score points, that’s the name of the game,” he said. “It’s not yards, it’s not formations or how many catches this guy gets or how many runs this guy gets. At the end of the day, are we scoring points? That’s really what it gets down to. So, we’re just trying to put together an offense that has a chance to go score points.
“And I think there’s always energy in anything that’s new, so I think they’re enjoying it. Like I say, I hope they’re confident, I want them to be confident. I want them to play well. But it’s really a next-day, next-play mentality. We’re not going to dwell long on anything that we do. If we have a bad play, our mentality is next play. If we have a turnover, we learn from it, our mentality is next play. You’ve got to let a guy go play. So that’s what we want them to do is play with a lot of confidence, play with the right mindset and let’s go score points.”
WANTED: PASS CATCHERS
UF looked like it had solved some of its problems in the receiving game last season but with Solomon Patton and Trey Burton graduating and redshirt senior Andre Debose out for the spring still recovering from a torn ACL, the Gators have spent the last few weeks searching for answers and may very well have found some.
During a spring game “selection show” held Thursday evening, which basically resulted in the first-team offense being picked opposite the first-team defense, sophomore Demarcus Robinson was the second wide receiver chosen, indicating he will likely start the Orange & Blue Debut opposite redshirt senior Quinton Dunbar.
Florida has also seen some development at slot wideout with redshirt junior Valdez Showers and junior Latroy Pittman giving Roper depth at the position. Showers was chosen for the second team, which means Pittman is likely starting in the slot considering the Gators’ base offense is a three-wide set.
“I think what you look for is someone that will be productive, and he’s got to be able to catch bubbles and be elusive running through linebackers and things like that. But at the same time, the big body is easier to see,” said Roper of his slot receiver position. “It’s just every year who’s going to be productive in that position, knowing that we’re going to count on him to be physical, blocking at the point of attack on the nickel linebacker out there, and still elusive enough to catch bubbles and be good in space.”
Roper is also hoping to see some improved production out of Florida’s tight ends and fullback, but he was reserved in his praise of those players while still pointing out things that they have improved on over the last couple of weeks.
“I think I’ve seen ups and down; we’ve seen both good days and bad days and that goes for anybody,” he said.
“But Clay Burton made a play the other day on like a 50-yard touchdown pass. It was a nice play. Tevin [Westbrook] and [Hunter] Joyner and all those guys have made plays. I think you look at [DeAndre] Goolsby, you look at he’s an athletic guy that has done more in the pass-catching mode as a receiver and stuff in high school.
“I think I’ve seen growth. Those guys haven’t done a whole lot of that. I think they enjoy doing it. I think they enjoy being part of the pass game. Because of that they go out and work hard and get better at it. It’s going to be an important position, and it’s going to be a playmaking position for us, so we’re counting on them.”
NOTES AND QUOTES
» Roper on how far along the offense is at this juncture: “Offense is changing, football is changing, and defenses are so multiple now and can be so complex now that it can drive you crazy as an offensive coach if you’re always trying to have the right answer at the right time. So what we’re trying to do offensively is: ‘Here’s what we do, and we’re going to do it over and over again and get good at it regardless of what the defense wants to do.’ So our early conversations were: ‘Hey, do we need to keep from doing this on defense, or do we need to give you some time with this on defense?’ I don’t care what you do on defense because we’re going to be us. We’re going to run our offense.”
» Redshirt senior right tackle Chaz Green on Florida’s massive number of injuries in 2013: “It was rough. Going in the training room, you’d see half of the team in there.”
» Redshirt senior Max Garcia on transitioning from guard to center: “I’ve never took a snap, never did a snap before spring ball. It’s definitely a challenging transition, but I’m really excited about it. It’s made me a better player already just mentally. It’s made me a better player, made me more versatile, made me a batter prospect for the NFL just knowing I can play guard, I can play a little bit of tackle, now I’m doing center. If I succeed here, I feel like that will just take my potential up to the roof. I’m really excited about it and I’m really encouraged that the coaches had the trust to put me in that position because you do have to be vocal, you do have to be a leader. I’m really encouraged that they decided to put me there.”