The Florida Gators on Thursday officially announced the hiring of their new offensive coordinator, welcoming Kurt Roper of the Duke Blue Devils into the fold.
“I’m excited to have Coach Roper join our staff,” head coach Will Muschamp said in a statement released by the school. “He has a diverse, up-tempo background on offense and does a good job of adapting to what the players do best. The most important thing though is he has always remained balanced.
“He has had success calling plays in the SEC and has tutored three NFL quarterbacks. He has had players produce at every offensive position and he is one of the most well-respected coaches in the country.”
Roper becomes Muschamp’s third offensive coordinator hire in just four seasons, following Charie Weis (2011) and Brent Pease (2012-13). Weis left for a head coach job at Kansas, but Pease was fired one day after the conclusion of the 2013 season when his offense finished worse than 100th nationally for the second-straight year.
Like Weis and Pease, Roper will also coach the team’s quarterbacks.
According to The Gainesville Sun, he will earn $600,000 in his first season. The terms of Roper’s prior contract with Duke were not released as it is a private university.
One of five finalists for the 2013 Broyles Award, which is handed out annually to the best assistant coach in college football, Roper just concluded his sixth season with the Blue Devils and also served as the program’s assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach.
His unit 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 will face Texas A&M in the 2013 Chick-Fil-A Bowl on Tuesday, Dec. 31 at 8 p.m. in Atlanta, GA, and Roper will stay on to help lead the team’s offense in its bowl game.
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 with David Cutcliffe to Ole Miss, working under him 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, all back 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 was 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.
Photo Credit: Duke University