Duke Blue Devils offensive coordinator Kurt Roper will be hired to the same position with the Florida Gators, according to an ESPN report released Tuesday citing sources.
Laura Keeley of the Raleigh News & Observer and CBSSports.com‘s Bruce Feldman both confirmed ESPN‘s initial report.
Roper arrived in Gainesville, FL, for an official interview with Florida head coach Will Muschamp at 8 a.m. on Monday, according to travel records from the University Athletic Association’s private jet. The same plane departed Gainesville hours later, returning Roper to Raleigh, NC, shortly after 4 p.m.
One of five finalists for the 2013 Broyles Award, which is handed out annually to the best assistant coach in college football, Roper is in his fifth season with the Blue Devils and also serves as the program’s assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach.
His unit has finished in the top 70 nationally each of the last two seasons in both scoring and total offense by utilizing a pass-heavy attack.
Muschamp has been telling players and recruits that UF hopes to switch to an up-tempo spread offense in 2013.
Duke is scheduled to face Texas A&M in the 2013 Chick-Fil-A Bowl on Tuesday, Dec. 31 at 8 p.m. in Atlanta, GA. It is currently unknown whether Roper will remain with the team through the bowl game before beginning his duties at Florida.
Roper has been a highly-regarded assistant throughout his career, which includes plenty of experience in the Southeastern Conference. He started off by serving as a graduate assistant at Tennessee (1996-98) before moving on to Ole Miss and working under David Cutcliffe as a quarterbacks coach (1999-01) and passing game coordinator (2002-04). In the latter role, Roper helped direct Eli Manning to a 2003 SEC Player of the Year Award; he would eventually become the No. 1 overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft.
Muschamp and Roper went head-to-head on the gridiron from 2002-04 with the former LSU defensive coordinator finishing 3-0 in their battles. Ole Miss fell 14-13 in 2002, 17-14 in 2003 and 27-24 in 2004. According to Pete Roussel of CoachingSearch.com, Roper was also the Rebels’ play caller when they put together a 35-24 win over the Tigers in 2001 with Muschamp serving as LSU’s linebackers coach.
When Cutcliffe was fired, Roper moved on and coached quarterbacks under head coach Rich Brooks (and offensive coordinator Joker Phillips) at Kentucky in 2005. He then spent two years working as a running backs coach at Tennessee before taking his current position back at Duke, both with Cutcliffe as his boss.
In his first two seasons with the Blue Devils, Roper helped turn QB Thad Lewis into a two-time All-ACC selection who finished his career as the school’s all-time leading passer, setting more than 50 program records.
As Duke began improving the talent on its roster, the team’s offensive production spiked. In 2012, the Blue Devils set single-season records for total points and points per game, numbers Duke eclipsed in 2013 with a total of 411 points (31.6 per game).
On staff with Roper at Duke is his brother, Zac Roper, who works as the tight ends coach, recruiting coordinator and a special teams assistant. Florida has all three positions filled at this time, but Zac Roper could theoretically wind up replacing UF tight ends coach Derek Lewis.
The Gators are replacing offensive coordinator Brent Pease, whose units at Florida finished 103rd and 113th in total offense over each of the last two seasons, respectively.
Photo Credit: Duke University