Florida Gators offensive coordinator Kurt Roper met with the media on Tuesday after practice to provide his thoughts on the installation of his offense to this point. Roper also evaluated a number of Gators who should be big factors for Florida in 2014.
BACKUP BATTLE CONTINUES
Redshirt junior Jeff Driskel will be Florida’s starting quarterback. That much has been known for months. As far as who will be backing him up on game days, well, the Gators do not seem to be any closer to making a decision on that despite previously pinpointing this week as the ideal time to come to a conclusion.
Roper on Tuesday indicated that the battle between freshmen Will Grier and Treon Harris is “fun to watch” with both players competing hard and still being good teammates to each other. He is just waiting to see some separation.
“The biggest thing is you look for production on their team reps as big as anything else. Sometimes production isn’t making a play, it’s keeping a bad play from being worse, if that makes sense. So really playing fast, playing quick, being decisive and being productive,” he explained.
The battle remains “fluid,” according to Roper, who said that even though it is “getting close to decision-making time,” the winner out of fall camp may not be the second-string quarterback throughout the entire season.
“The first thought process is, if Jeff goes down, you’ve got to be prepared to go win that game when it happens. That’s really where the decision starts and why it never stops and can always be fluid,” he noted.
That is where a wrinkle comes into play. Roper, as he has in the past, may want to use a second quarterback during games like he has at other stops. That signal caller would likely be given his own package of plays to run as a way for Florida to ensure the defense remains unbalanced and honest.
Unfortunately, the best “second quarterback” may not be the same player as the best “backup quarterback” for Driskel, meaning an injury to the starter could result in neither of UF’s freshmen getting redshirts. That is not an ideal situation for the Gators.
“The biggest thing is to have a guy, a second quarterback, that can go play the game if something happens to the first one,” Roper said. “We’ll use two if they earn the right but really it gets into how does it help us win.”
PLEASED WITH THE ROOKIE
Florida wide receivers coach Chris Leak stepped up big for the Gators this offseason, taking a job on the spot after the school forced Joker Phillips to resign from his position. To this point, Roper is pleased not only with Leak as a coach but also how well his group has played in practice.
“I think he’s done a really good job. I think the guys are working hard for him. I think they’re getting better fundamentally on some of the things that he’s working on with releases and things like that,” Roper said on Tuesday. “So you see development in the group, and I think you see a group that goes to the field and works hard for their coach. And that’s what you’re looking for. But I think he’s done a good job.”
There has definitely been a learning curve for Leak coaching the wide receivers, but Roper was quick to point out that is usually the case for first-year position coaches. The reason Leak and others like him succeed in taking on such a difficult job without the requisite experience is because of what they do outside of the white lines.
“Really, to be a good coach, it just takes a lot of effort and want-to. If you get a guy like that, that will put in the time, I always describe it as turning on the lights and turning off the lights. You know, beat everybody there and leave after everybody leaves,” he explained.
“If you’ll put that time in, then you’ve got a chance to be a good football coach. I mean, it’s football. It’s 22 people. You know, I mean, it ain’t complex math here. So if you’ll work hard, you got a chance to be a good football coach.”
Roper is also pleased with Leak’s ability to “teach [the] big picture.” In other words, showing his receivers how their particular routes and decisions affect not only the quarterback but the entire offensive system as a whole.
“Everybody plays a role within a play and sometimes your route is a route that is supposed to maybe try to help somebody else get open. So, if you don’t do a great job of running your route, then it doesn’t work,” he noted. “So I think [Leak] can get that information across really well to the guys, how it all ties together.”
Redshirt senior wide receiver Andre Debose, for whom Leak is his sixth position coach in as many seasons, is equally pleased with what his new teacher has brought to the table.
“Working with Coach Leak has been amazing. I always grew up watching him play throughout all the glory days here at Florida. Just being in a meeting room with him and seeing him every day, hearing his knowledge,” he began. “When he first started playing football, a lot of people don’t know Coach Leak learned to play wide receiver first before he played quarterback. So he knows his stuff and he knows a lot about the position. He’s definitely a great coach.”
Debose also complimented Leak’s famous release. “Nothing against Driskel but, Leak, there’s nothing like that spiral.”
NOTES AND QUOTES
» On former Florida offensive coordinator Mike Shanahan (1980-83) being on campus Monday: ” First time I’ve met him. I actually played for coach Mike Heimerdinger, who has a background here. When I went to Rice, I was a quarterback for about a week and then they moved me to defensive back. But he and Coach Heimerdinger worked together a long time. … But yeah, obviously Coach Shanahan has a lot of Florida ties.”
» On his enthusiasm for his talented group of running backs: ” I think we do have a good group. I think we’ve got guys that are experienced, that are playmakers, that understand protection, that can make plays in the passing game. I don’t think you can ever have enough numbers there, I really don’t. I think that’s a physical position that is hard to stay healthy. I’m glad we’ve got a bunch of guys. Again, I believe if a guy earns the right to play, you’ve got to find a way to play him some. It doesn’t mean maybe he plays the whole game, but we need to be prepared to use all our weapons. And really, all we want to do is score points. Who is capable of scoring? I think those guys getting the football are good with it in space.”
» On how the offensive line is looking: “I think we re pretty good there. We’ve got to go play a game. You like to take it one game at a time and not get too far ahead of yourself, but I think we’ve got a good group. I really do.”
» On whether he’s seen the video of two Gators blocking each other from 2013: “[Laughing] I’ve seen it. I’ve seen it. To me, things like that happen. So, last year we were 10-2 [at Duke], pretty good team. We’re playing North Carolina to win the Coastal [Division] outright. We’re down 25-24, we got the ball on the six-yard line, we have 2nd-and-Goal, so touchdown’s big, field goal puts us ahead. We’re running down about three minutes to go in the game, I call a play and both our guards pull. One of them was supposed to pull and the other one wasn’t. Well, they messed up, both guards pulled and ran right into each other. That doesn’t get mentioned because we went 10-2 in the regular season. Nobody sees it. How many times defensive linemen run twist games up front and run right into each other. And I think it’s just a product of the season because you could watch any game and see those things all the time.”