Florida Gators offensive coordinator Kurt Roper met with the media on Tuesday to provide some thoughts on his team’s recent upset victory and upcoming road game against the Vanderbilt Commodores, which is set for 7:30 p.m. on Saturday at Vanderbilt Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee.
“WE’RE GONNA THROW IT MORE”
Head coach Will Muschamp told the media after Saturday’s win and again on Monday that there were additional passing plays scheduled to be run against Georgia, but Florida was so successful running the ball that the Gators did not want to take any chances and deviate from what was working.
Apparently, Muschamp told freshman quarterback Treon Harris the exact same thing immediately after the game. In the Vine below, via WCJB TV20‘s Zach Aldridge, Muschamp hugs Harris on the field and says, “We’re gonna throw it more.”
Roper corroborated Muschamp’s claims on Tuesday.
“Our focus right now offensively, and the discussions we’ve talked about, if we don’t get better at turning the ball over, it doesn’t matter what we do. We want to be a team that is playing smart, taking care of the football and growing. But there’s no doubt Treon is going to have to be a playmaker in the passing game. Going have to be,” he said.
Though Harris still has “some work to do in the passing game,” Roper stated that it is absolutely a dimension of the offense that Florida needs to have going forward. He also believes Harris is prepared to handle the additional responsibility, though he admitted that he cannot predict what the results will be.
“He’s ready for me to call more plays than we called, whether we’re successful with them or not is a whole different discussion,” Roper explained. “He has been repping a lot more plays, and it doesn’t matter [if it is] drop back, moving pocket or play action. He has repped a lot of our offense. Knowing what the play is and then applying it successfully against the defense are two different things.”
Not trying to disagree with Roper, redshirt senior center Max Garcia had a different perspective on the Gators’ offensive plans moving forward. “I feel like plan of attack, run the ball first and pass the ball when we absolutely have to. I think that’s going to be our strategy for the rest of the season,” he said.
A NEW ROLE
Redshirt junior QB Jeff Driskel not being on the field Saturday was not indicative of his role with Florida for the remainder of this season, according to Roper. Driskel, who has been dealing with a back injury, is still recovering from his ailment but could see some action in a ball-carrying role when he is healthy enough to return.
“The healthier he gets, the better he feels, and then some of that role can take place, like the Matt Jones role [taking direct snaps] at quarterback. That’s a role that obviously Jeff can do really well at 230 pounds, 240 pounds, if he is feeling really well,” said Roper. “Now they’ve got to defend the pass more in that sense, too. So that role can obviously grow depending on how he is feeling.”
The running backs and offensive line got nearly all of the credit for the Gators’ impressive 418-yard rushing performance on Saturday but there should be no doubt that Florida’s wideouts were equally important, especially when it came to breaking runs to the outside and far down the field.
“I felt like it was very unselfish of our wideouts and then their effort and the things they did in the game, as the game wore on, as we continued to have success running it. Obviously, they realized there probably won’t be a lot of balls in the air as we move forward in the game. We had a plan for that going in, but again, as you continue to run the ball like that, don’t change what you’re doing,” said Muschamp.
Added Roper: “I was really pleased. They did a good job of trying to be physical, of trying to be patient when they needed to be patient, trying to dig out an extra defender when they needed to dig them out. But the effort, just the second effort, showed up with those guys all over the field, and that’s not an easy thing. It’s never an easy thing to block in space. It’s no different than a [defensive back] trying to tackle a running back in space when you have so much room to maneuver. That’s a tough skill and I thought they did a good job.”
Sophomore Demarcus Robinson in particular was dominant as a blocker. He not only held his own throughout the game, Robison found a way to block two separate defenders during junior Matt Jones’s 44-yard touchdown rush. Suffice to say, he got some well-deserved praise from his teammates this week.
“Man, I loved it. Oh man, it fired me up. Just seeing him throw two blocks on one play, on that touchdown with Matt Jones running it down the left sideline. That was just incredible. I’d never seen wide receivers block like that before. It just shows that, you know, we have unselfish players on this team,” Garcia said of Robinson’s effort.
“He still was out there, he was a playmaker, and that’s what it comes down to, guys being unselfish about being on this football team and sacrificing your body for the guy next to you. That’s what it’s going to come down to is guys willing to lay it out on the line for each other. …
“They come to Florida to score touchdowns as well as a receiver. But when they’re out there just blocking and sacrificing themselves for other people, it boosts the whole team up because we know they’re not happy with not scoring touchdowns, but at the end of the day, it’s about the team winning. That’s what motivates the receivers to go out there and block is to win the game because that’s ultimately why we’re here is to win football games.”
“When Matt Jones ran down the sideline on the 44-yard touchdown run, I think that made it 21-7, the first three guys that greeted him and were as excited as could be were all three wide receivers were standing there right with him. And when you win football games and everybody’s having fun, there is a lot more support that way, too. So really your sole focus is win games and that solves a lot of problems.”
Redshirt senior right tackle Chaz Green credited the wideouts as the main reason the Gators had 13 explosive plays on the afternoon. “You know, most receivers don’t like to block. It was fun watching them on film just flying around, blocking people like us [offensive linemen],” he said.
NOTES AND QUOTES
» Roper on being praised by Muschamp for calling his best offensive game at Florida: “It’s fun to win football games. I guess is the best way to answer that question. It’s hard. Anywhere you’ve ever been, it’s just hard to win games. When you go out and win the game, really simply by running the football, it makes it even more of a challenge. I guess I was just impressed with the way our guys played and the way they competed, the energy and, shoot, they just played with great passion. I was appreciative more than anything else. It was good to get with those guys.”
» Roper on whether he is worried about wide receivers not wanting to commit to the Gators because they do not throw the football (well): “I think they understand what our situation is right now. And so the ones that have an issue with it, they have an issue with it. But those aren’t our thoughts. Our thoughts are to try to win a football game. And offensively, when we were at Duke, we had three 3,000-yard passers and multiple 1,000-yard receivers. So the system is obviously in place for receivers to make plays. When you get into a season, the No. 1 goal is to win a football game.”
» Roper on whether sophomore running back Kelvin Taylor ever faltered with his confidence due to lack of snaps: “I don’t think he ever lacked confidence. I think it gets down to opportunities. Every game is its own game, and it’s fluid, but obviously when you play a game like that and you have those types of runs take place for you, it obviously is a confidence booster. But I have a hard time believing KT wasn’t ever confident.”
» Roper on redshirt freshman RB Adam Lane, who has not played yet in his Florida career: “Adam Lane is doing a better job.”