Florida OC Roper talks Cutcliffe, coaching, challenges and expectations with Gators

Hours after officially being announced as the new offensive coordinator of the Florida Gators, Kurt Roper met with the media via a teleconference held by the Duke Blue Devils. He will remain with Duke as offensive coordinator for the 2013 Chick-Fil-A Bowl on Dec. 31 before joining the Florida football program.

FROM THE COACH THAT KNOWS HIM BEST

For all but one of his 17 years as a coach, Roper has worked in some way, shape or form under Blue Devils head coach David Cutcliffe with stops at Tennessee, Ole Miss and now Duke. Cutcliffe on Thursday discussed Roper at length, explaining why he believes he is ready for a top-tier job.

» On Roper’s strengths: “There’s the things that we pride ourselves in: detail and training quarterbacks, the attention to detail of preparing an offensive team to play a game, practice habits. It’s the total package. I think you have a systematic approach, everything is covered. You try to take players offensively – that’s what your job is to be an offensive coordinator – to put them in every circumstance they can possibly be in, in a game, in practice, and build confidence through great execution. Kurt will certainly, that will be one of their great strengths. They will be extremely well-prepared coming out of practice.”

» On Roper’s coaching style: “His style would be intensity, tempo, quality of repetition. From the minute they hit the field, it’s going to be intense. He’s not a…I wouldn’t call him a laid-back football coach by any stretch of the imagination. It’s going to be what we call ‘treat the ground like a hot stove.’ If you hit the ground, you better get up running. By the time they get on the field until they get off, they’re going to be moving and getting a bunch of quality reps. So I would call it very intense.”


SO LONG, FAREWELL

Goodbyes are tough, but Roper is confident that he will be able to succeed without Cutcliffe by his side.

“I’ve been doing it too long. Went to Ole Miss with him and then after two years I was calling [the offensive plays]. I did it four years there and done it all six years [at Duke]. I don’t have any nerves,” he said.

Cutcliffe spoke at length about his appreciation for Roper, who he has known his entire adult life since Roper graduated from Rice in 1995. Cutcliffe discussed attending Roper’s wedding, being there for the births of his two children and heping him grow both professionally and personally.

“The first thing I’d say is that Kurt and I have been together a long time. I’m very appreciative of all of his contributions, whether it was at Tennessee, Ole Miss, certainly here at Duke through the years. It has been an enjoyable professional relationship and certainly a friendship,” he said. “He’s done a great job of being a hard worker. He’s very loyal. We wish him luck as he heads to Florida in a new direction for his career.”

Cutcliffe also had no qualms about Roper being ready for the pressure that comes with coaching in the Southeastern Conference or with the Gators specifically…though he certainly wished that he would have stayed on staff with the Blue Devils.

“Well, I didn’t encourage him. I certainly want our coaches to do where their heart leads them. Kurt had a job here and would have continued to have a job at Duke, very pleased with what he’s accomplished here as the offensive coordinator,” Cutcliffe said.

“This is an opportunity for him somewhat to be out on his own. I think he’s looking forward to that. As far as the pressures go, he’s definitively ready for that. He’s been in the Southeastern Conference at two institutions and understands the intensity level that’s involved in that league in football. His work ethic – that’s what that ultimately is all about. His work ethic, they’ll be prepared and they’ll be prepared well. That just has to be personal preference at that point.”

HOW IT WENT DOWN

Roper admitted on Thursday that his hiring to the Florida coaching staff was a relatively fast one. He found out on Sunday that Gators head coach Will Muschamp wanted to interview him on Monday and flew out of Raleigh, NC, in the early morning hours. He accepted the job on Tuesday.

“I felt obviously it was the right situation for me and my family at the right time. It’s obviously a great university that has a great tradition. I look forward to trying to add to that. I just think it was the right situation at the right time for me and my family,” Roper said.

Cutcliffe explained during his portion of the teleconference that Muschamp spoke with him prior to interviewing Roper, presumably for permission or at least as a professional courtesy.

SCHEMATIC STYLE

Asked to divulge what style he plans to run with the Gators – whether a pro-style or spread offense, up-tempo or ball-control – Roper explained that he allows personnel to dictate the offense, tailoring formations and plays to the best abilities of his players.

“I think you got plenty of time through spring practice and through fall practice to make those decisions. What we’re going to do, what we’ve always done, is you determine what your quarterback is good at executing, you determine what your five linemen are good at executing. And through practice, you determine who has earned the right to have the football. And you try to make those decisions based on that,” he explained.

“You have 15 opportunities obviously in spring practice to make those decisions. And then you get 29 practice opportunities in the fall to keep making those decisions and finalize going into fall camp. Everything moves fast, but you got to figure those things out.”

Roper added: “I think the biggest thing is, and I said it a minute ago, I think the biggest thing is you got to find out the strengths of your quarterback and the strengths of your offensive line. Once you find out those strengths, then you can start putting together what you’re going to hang your hat on offensively. And then the other five players, you got to find out who can make something happen with the football. … Then you find a way to try to get those guys the football and you create your personnel and your formations based on that.

“I think there’s a reason for tempo in a game, it obviously causes a defense problems, but we’ll never sacrifice tempo over execution. We want to play fast, but we want still to play smart, take care of the football and do those types of things. But I think you got to figure out what your quarterback, what your offensive line are capable are doing. Our core philosophy will never change. It is very simple but the truth of the matter.

“Our whole philosophy, my philosophy, is we want to get 11 people on the field, we want to get them lined up, we want to get them set with motion, we want to snap the ball before the play clock runs out and we want the ball at the end of the play. Those things are what we will coach. Coaching’s not plays or formations or this. It’s how to make decisions and how to play the game with effort and those types of things. We got to go in and find out who are the playmakers with the ball and what our players are capable of doing up front and what we’re capable of doing at the quarterback position.”

ASSESSING CHALLENGES AND EXPECTATIONS

Roper is no dummy. He knows the title of Gators offensive coordinator comes with great power, great responsibility, exceedingly difficult challenges and high expectations. He did not shy away from any of those on Thursday.

“Coach Muschamp is really excited about the future there. I think he’s excited about the talent level that he has there. I think he’s excited about the opportunities that Florida has to compete for championships. So that obviously is something that I’m very interested in doing,” he said.

“Everywhere you go is a challenge. It doesn’t matter where you’re coaching, who you’re coaching with or whatnot…everything’s a challenge. It’s just the next challenge is the way I look at it. I don’t have any limitations or any preconceived thoughts going in. I’m going down there to try to coach to the best of my ability to try to win games and try to win championships.”

Roper continued: “Obviously the expectations are high and they should be. They’ve won a lot of games at Florida and won a lot of championships at Florida. So obviously the expectations are going to be high anywhere in the SEC. It’s all going that way. We won 10 here at Duke this year. Obviously, like I was saying, the expectations are great. I understand that going in. The challenge is to meet those expectations over at the University of Florida, [which] has had a great tradition and has met those expectations a lot in the past. I’m just looking forward to it.”

REUNITING WITH THE JOKER

The one year of football Roper coached without Cutcliffe, he served under then-offensive coordinator Joker Phillips with the Kentucky Wildcats. As Roper has noted before, Phillips helped introduce him to the concept of a no-huddle offense that season.

“I had a great year working with Joker and Coach [Rich] Brooks and that whole staff. I learned a lot of football and, you know, created a lot of great relationships there,” he explained. “But Joker, when he was offensive coordinator, wanted to install a no-huddle system so we could go in and out of the huddle or no-huddle or whatnot. So really that was my first experience with it.”

Roper is excited to be coaching once again with Phillips, who is currently Florida’s wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator.

“Joker and I get along great. I think he’s a heck of a football coach first, but we’re really good friends. I think he’s a good man and great recruiter. I think he’s a guy that I’ll enjoy being around every day. I look forward to getting back with him,” Roper said.

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Roper on his familiarity with Florida’s offensive personnel: “You know, I’m obviously not very familiar at all right now. I’ve just been focusing on this bowl game obviously for the next week or so and then I’ll get myself familiar. I know that Driskel’s the quarterback. Don’t know much beyond that.”

» Roper on when he will be able to start recruiting for the Gators: “Well, as soon as I can. I think obviously I’ve got a week here that I need to focus on and to be my best for these guys one last time. And then when I can get everything situationed and get down to Gainesville, then you start focusing on that when you can.”

» Roper on whether he will get to choose his offensive line coach: “You know, I think obviously Coach Muschamp is the guy that is going to make the hires for this program. I will obviously have discussions and things like that, but we’re all going to be on the same page. And it’s not just going to be coach Muschamp and myself, it’s going to be everybody that’s involve don offense. It’s important that everybody is excited and on the same page. Coach Muschamp is going to make the hire.”

» Roper on whether he’s discussed his brother, Zac Roper (Duke’s tight ends coach, recruiting coordinator and assistant special teams coach) joining him at Florida: “No.”

» Roper whether he’s excited to be for Muschamp rather than against his defenses: “Absolutely. He has obviously been a great defensive coach for a long, long time. It was hard to battle against him. He was always multiple and caused problems with pressures. Guys were always physical. I’m looking forward to obviously working with coach Muschamp.”

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19 Responses to “Florida OC Roper talks Cutcliffe, coaching, challenges and expectations with Gators”

  1. Tractorr says:

    I like that he claims he tailors his offense to his players. This is so key in the college game. Only Saban seems to be able to recruit the exact type of guys he wants (and he usually has to oversign to do it).

  2. Joseph says:

    Even Roper knows Pease was just calling plays and hoping the players would execute. After every game pease would say ” i shoulda/coulda put the players in a better position. We way over paid pease. Compare the two resumes side by side, pease not even in the same class as Roper! So far Roper is speaking the words all of us needed to hear. TEACH THE TALENT !!! Go gators.

  3. gatorboi352 says:

    I love how Gator fans are acting like this guy has already won us a National Title or something. After 2 botched OC hires, I’ll reserve judgment on this guy until after the 2014 season.

  4. Oldfyer says:

    Very encouraging.

  5. hilldw says:

    I am hopeful about this hire as I am for almost every hire because I want to see the Gators WIN. Reading the comments on this site and elsewhere I get the feeling that some Gator ‘fans’ were actually cheering for them to lose so they could criticize Muschamp. What are those poeple gonna say next year if the team is successful? A fluke? I don’t expect Roper to come in and work miracles and win a National Championship his first year. Roper is going to have to work with a grab bag of players recruited by 3 different OC’s (Addazzio, Weis, Pease). Going forward we need consistency in our offensive philosophy and we need to give this OC time to develop the players on the offensive side of the ball.

    Adam, if you had to guess where was Roper on Muschamps list? 2nd, 3rd? I am guessing Helton was first..??

    • I don’t think it matters one bit. But probably second or third.

    • Tim says:

      Amen sir…well said! I can’t for the life of me figure out why so many people have such a strong desire to see this Head Coach fail. It’s sickening really.

      Now on Roper…it was a big no brainer for him to take this job. The team went 4-8 last year and lost 4 of their 8 by a single score without a lot of their starters in the games. If he brings even a LIL-bit of offense to this team they make an instant 4 game improvement. I’m sure he looks at the senior QB, the experience at RB, and the undeveloped but improving talent at WR and thinks…”heck, I’m going to get a lot of credit for turning around a team that has a lot of talent on the roster next year.” This guy’s licking his chops because he pretty much hit the lottery…there is only one direction to go from 4 -8…and that’s up. If they turn it around next year…he’s going to get an unbalanced portion of the credit. Let’s hope they do. Go Gators!

  6. Timmy T says:

    If the O-line doesn’t get a whole lot better, Kurt’s style nor philosophy will matter much. Hopefully, he can get that unit shored up enough to perform admirably. Good luck and welcome to Gator Nation, Coach Roper. I’m rooting for ya.

  7. G2 says:

    Think its the best we could do given the circumstances. He seems to get a lot out of 2 and 3 star players, we can only get better. Glad to see the end of the ground n pound philosophy. Problem is we only have one qb ready to play next year,

  8. aziatic41 says:

    @G2,

    We need to sign a quarterback from the junior college ranks. Preferably a running QB. Roper has been very successful running a two-qb system this season at Duke with both guys being dual-threat guys. Seems like a decent hire. I’m definitely for the no-huddle he’s bringing.

  9. gradygator says:

    Champsionship caliber coach, comes from great stock and a great mentor. The most storied family in the NFL right now (the Mannings) followed Cutcliffe from Tenn to Ole Miss. I’m sure that Roper was heavily involved in that given that he worked with Peyton at Tenn and then Eli at Ole Miss. I bet that if the Mannings had a younger brother right now, the family would advise him to go to either Duke or UF based on their trust, confidence and repsect for the way Cutcliffe/Roper coach the QB poistion. And that my friends is good enough for me!!!

    On top of that, he has three 3,000 yard passers at Duke? his offenses were just shy of the marks set by Spurrier while at Duke–considering the era we are in and how the ACC has improved, that says A LOT about the kind of offense he runs.

    my personal favorite is 359 yrds of rushing on the canes! i hate the canes.

    If you are not excited about that then you need to find a new team. FSU and UM are looking for fans as they always are.

    Coach Roper — Welcome to the Gator Nation.

    Fellow gators — welcome back to the old Fun and Gun the GATORS ARE BACK!

  10. Patrick says:

    Delighted to welcome Coach Roper to Florida! Looks like a great fit. Great experience. I am pulling for all the coaches to succeed. Go Gators!

  11. Joaqui says:

    GradyGator I loved your comment! I too am excited for Coach Roper and his comments. I think he said all the right things. Any word yet on how this hiring will effect recruiting?

  12. gradygator says:

    Joaqui – i have no idea how it will affect recruuiting – i choose not to be a recruitnik b/c it is a waste of time. Those guys who sign up will get my full support. Additionally great coaches learn to maximize what they have on deck. Spurrier and Roper both made it happen at Duke — it says a lot about Roper that his offenses are as every bit as good as Sprriers in a significantly improved ACC. I have all the confidence that Roper will maximize the full potential of evey player on the offense. If you can win at Duke you can win anywhere!

    Good news is that we have very good talent on board that i know we can win with–its nice to have great freshmen but we dont need anyone in order to win a title, we can do it with what we have.

  13. Joe Swatzell says:

    “I know that Driskel’s the quarterback. Don’t know much beyond that.”

    …and THAT is why every other QB has left or talked about leaving, the program. You can BET Roper got this info from Muschamp. There will be NO competition for the job.

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