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.
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.”