8/12: Roper breaks down Gators offense, backup quarterbacks and running backs

By Adam Silverstein
August 12, 2014

Florida Gators offensive coordinator Kurt Roper met with the media on Tuesday after the team’s 11th fall practice to provide his thoughts on the offense to this point. Roper also evaluated a number of Gators who should be big factors for Florida in 2014.


The theme coming out of spring practice was that the Gators installed more of the offense and were much further along in the learning process than Roper expected. While that might have been true then, Roper was cautious Tuesday to say that Florida’s players fully understand what is going on with his scheme.

“I think they’ve got a really good understanding of what we’re asking them to do, our base offense, I should say, the guys that were around for those 15 days – our two offensive lines, our two quarterbacks,” he explained. “Really, the young guys, it’s a battle right now to have a great understanding because it is so new to them and our defense is so multiple and causes so many problems. But the guys that have been in the battles before can obviously apply experiences to what we’re teaching them offensively, I think they’ve really got a good understanding of what we’re doing.”

He later added: “These guys aren’t there yet because they’ve just been in it 25-26 practices in. The biggest thing to guard against is putting too much on their plate.”

While Roper may still be spoon-feeding the Gators his offense, he is pleased with how the team has responded to his system and coaching.

“I think [their attitude’s] been really good. I think these guys are excited about playing football,” he explained. “It wouldn’t matter who you rolled in here. When this time of season comes running around, everybody is excited. But I hope they’re enjoying the offense. I hope they’re enjoying competing every day on the practice field, and I think they’re excited about going and competing on Saturdays.”

Roper had nothing particularly negative to say about Florida’s first team offense, a group he said needs “to stay focused, keep battling” while it continues to pick up more of the scheme along the way. He prefers they lock in on doing things the right way, even if that means that it might take longer to expand the playbook.

“I hear coaches say all the time, ‘Don’t make the same mistake twice.’ I’m a believer that you’re coaching the same things every day, whether it’s steps, hands, eyes, whatever it is. So we got to keep coaching those same things all the time with those guys. The better we keep getting at that, the better we’ll be. I think it’s a group that’s doing a pretty good job,” he noted.


Two more practices down and the Gators do not seem to be any closer to naming a backup quarterback, according to Roper. Though no one has said so specifically, the race appears to be coming down to freshmen Will Grier and Treon Harris with redshirt sophomore Skyler Mornhinweg likely holding down the third-string job while the other loser of the battle takes a redshirt.

Roper on Tuesday broke down what he thinks of the first-year signal callers.

“I see talent. I see guys that are working hard, that want to be good, that right now are confused because it is a bunch on their plate. It is a different game. It’s a brand new language. We do have a lot of routes. It takes a little bit of time to pick up. But I see talented players,” he said.

“Will’s got a pretty good command of the offense, managing the line of scrimmage, getting everybody on the same page, just good communication. I think Treon is being pretty decisive right now. Where they’re different is obviously in size, there’s a difference there. There’s a difference in top-end speed, but both of them are quick and both of them can throw the football.”

Grier certainly has the edge on Harris when it comes to commanding the offense considering he participated in spring practice while Harris was not on campus.

The decision that Roper and head coach Will Muschamp have to make is not just which player they want to be second-string but whether they plan on having a set package of plays for the player in that role.

If they want a true backup to redshirt junior Jeff Driskel, the player best-equipped to come in and replace him should an injury occur on the field, Grier will be the choice. If the concept of putting a package of plays that can be run in a game is enthralling, Harris might take the role while Grier receives the redshirt he once desired when first committing to UF.

A decision should ultimately be made “through the week into next week.”


» On what he thinks about coaching Driskel: “I’ve enjoyed every second of it. He’s a good person. I like being around really good people. That’s fun for me. That’s one of the things that’s important for me in evaluation, a guy that’s accountable, does what he says what he’s going to do. He’s that kind of person. He’s a guy that you can hang your hat on as a person. He’s fun to be around. He’s obviously a really talented football player, so he’s fun to coach that way. It’s been a lot of fun to get to know him.”


As Florida’s offense rolls along, Roper is looking for a total of nine running backs and wideouts to see action in any given week. On Tuesday, he said he definitely has enjoy talent on the field but still must determine which nine are the guys that will be counted on when kickoff comes around.

“The more the better is what it really gets down to. But typically you go into a game, with running backs you’re probably going to lean on two and three is going to show up in there some. And you never know how the injuries are going to go and whatnot,” he explained. “And receivers, if you have a group of six that are going to rotate that are really capable, you’re in good shape. Back in 2012, we really played three guys the whole year [at Duke].”

The first thing the Gators will need to do is figure out their depth chart at running back. The preferred starter in 2013, junior Matt Jones, is looking solid in training camp but nevertheless coming off a knee injury. Sophomore Kelvin Taylor, who shined when given the bulk of the carries late in the season, brings athleticism and versatility. Then there’s freshman Brandon Powell, an electric and elusive ball carrier who has impressed during fall practice.

Roper appeared to admit on Tuesday that those three players stood out the most to him, but he was quick to ensure that two more Florida rushers got their due, one in particular.

Mack Brown is an experienced football player,” he said of the redshirt senior. “And Mark Herndon is a football player. That’s a guy, when he’s in the game, I got a lot of confidence that he’s going to know what to do. He’s a talented player. He’s one of those guys that you watch, obviously he was a walk-on that earned a scholarship. This guy could start at a lot of places. He’s that good. But obviously Matt Jones and KT and Brandon Powell are physically gifted.”


» According to reporters on-site at practice, sophomore cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III (knee) returned to the field after missing some time with a bone bruise. He wore an orange non-contact jersey and was limited to minimal participation.

» On his main rule for quarterbacks: “These [defensive] guys are trying to get back there and hurt them. When you have a guy like [Jadaveon] Clowney rushing you, that is below three seconds and then its 270 pounds of pain. They need to understand that if they want to stay healthy, they need to throw the football. I have a simple rule for young quarterbacks when we come in. When I call a pass, I want you to throw the ball. That’s hard for young guys to do because they don’t know what the route concepts are, so their inclination is to keep it and try to run. Well, you’re not running past Jon Bullard and Dante Fowler. Simple rule: When I call a pass, throw it. Make a decision, throw it. We’ll learn from our mistakes but be decisive. If a guy can’t be decisive, it’s hard to play.”

» On how he coaches players during practice: “Football is game. It’s supposed to be fun. There’s a time to be serious and a time to lock in and all that. I learned a long time ago, if you take a player’s hope away from them, that’s when you got a guy that’s going to struggle. I want guys to have hope and belief in themselves and enjoy coming out here and playing. If I got a guy that’s playing really, really hard, then we’re going to fix the issues whether its route depth or whatever it is, we’re going to fix the issues. If we got a guy that’s not playing very hard, you can’t coach him. But when these guys are playing hard, then we’re going to coach positive.”

» On how much Florida will be running up-tempo and how quickly plays will be run: “We’re going to call some plays that are really fast, that are around the 25-28-30-second range. We’re going to call some plays that are around the five-second range. What we try to keep tabs of is that 18-second range. If we can get the ball snapped around 18 seconds on the play clock, then we’re keeping a pretty good tempo. But my biggest thing is execution. I’ve never really talked a number of plays or how fast we’re going. We’re going to be a no-huddle, quick-tempo team. At the end of the day, we want to look up and have points on the scoreboard typically that’s meant more plays in the past by going no huddle, but we don’t just sit here and say, ‘Hey, let’s go get 92 plays.’ We got to execute. If we can score in two plays, let the other team run 10 plays and punt. That’s kind of the thought process.”

» On how he performed while running a wide receiver’s route over the weekend: “I would rate it as a 42-year-old man that’s stiff.”

» On redshirt senior tight end Jake McGee: “Smart guy, guy that’s played a lot of football, so it’s not new to him. All he has to do is be able to understand the language. Once he does, he can do it. What he can do is run and catch, he can flat run and catch.”

» On senior Hunter Joyer and where he fits in now that there are no more fullbacks in the offense: “It’s interesting. Hunter has been working into that same position, what we call the ‘B’ position. He gets a bunch of reps. We try to share those reps as much as possible so we can evaluate fairly. He’s a guy that has really good hands, a lot of experience. He doesn’t have the length, obviously, that a lot of other guys have, but I’ve got a lot of confidence when Hunter’s in the game to know what to do and how to do it.”


  1. Michael Jones says:

    How does a guy like Adam Lane just drop off of the radar like that? Or somebody as talented as Joyer and Herndon not get used more? I know there is only 1 football, but it still has to be really tough.

    Then a guy like Herndon reads how he could be starting somewhere else and other guys must think that too and it has to be tough to not starting looking around.

    My heart really goes out to these kids.

  2. Michael J. says:

    Let’s not get crazy now. A 4-8 team is not oozing with so much talent that the guys that don’t get on the field would be starting elsewhere. If that was the case, UF wouldn’t have went 4-8. Let’s just be happy if UF has enough talent among the starters to beat a good team. There are six teams on the schedule this year that I would consider good teams. Missouri, LSU, Alabama, South Carolina, Georgia, and FSU. If UF is truly talented, they better beat at least one of them, if not, the hypothesis about UF being full of talented players is null.

    • Michael Jones says:

      UF has plenty of talent, troll. Always has had, always will have. If last season taught us anything, it’s that good coaching can take average talent and win a lot of games, and poor coaching can take above average talent and lose a lot of games.

      Coaching is huge in college football. HUGE.

  3. Kaleb Wolfe says:

    Um also having a college football FBS record 72 players get injured in some way or another over an entire season is huge and also having only 2 starters start all 12 games last year I’d say is huge, regardless of how good or not good a Head Coach is go see if what happen to us happened to any other FBS School last season even to Alabama in a conference like the SEC try to get bowl eligible or even a team like FSU ( Free Seafood University ) even in the basketball conference that they play in I don’t care if you lose both your 1st & 2nd string quarterbacks as well as your starting running as well have have to play musical chairs every week with (new players who hadn’t ever faced SEC competition ever in their lives) along your offensive line not even in the ACC would you make it bowl be bowl eligible/ or get 6 wins, as well as lose your star defensive player in future 1st round pick Dominque Easley in a non contact injury no less within just 3 days of losing your starting QB personally losing Easley hurt why? Because before his injury our defense was as good as anyone’s in college football without a doubt & why was it so good? Mainly due to Easley being so quick off the line of scrimmage that he was taking up 2 blockers every down this allowing our rush ends or “the buck position players” Ronald Powell & Dante Fowler Jr. to go one on one versus the blocker notice against Tennessee just how fast Folwer got around a supposed high rated offensive tackle so fast that he not only sacked the QB but stripped the ball immediately losing Easley hurt the defense was never the same then the dominoe effect of an inept offense constantly going 3 downs & out eventually wore down on our defense & of of course we lose key linebackers like Antonio Morrison as well as Mike Taylor hell we had walk-ons starting all over the defense when it was time for old Georgia southern to come in & of any of you know anything about college football you’ll realize how difficult in just one week it is to prepare for a triple option running team by this time the offense couldn’t keep the ball long enough & eventually a depleted line backing crew with walk-ons who’d spent their careers at UF on the practice squad didn’t know that they were coming in during that game especially against the option and if you’ve ever played college football playing assignment football against the option especially if you miss your man or our the slightest out of position they can take it to house on you all it takes is one mistake that game especially was a perfect storm but that ok it alowed freshman like Jarrad Davis to play and hopefully everyone who did play got some game expierience so look guys I look at last year as a complete wash we were snake bit from the time we heard in fall practice that starting right offensive tackle Chaz Green was out for the season as well as Andre Debose out for the season before the season even got started Jon Halapio starting right guard out till the UT game with a torn pectoral muscle retore it but played through it so as far as coaching goes not even the great Nick Saban with his 4 or 5 top recruiting classes could’ve got to 6 wins well not atleast with our schedule oh and had Jimbo Fischer had to endure what Coach Muschamp had to deal with especially with our schedule would he of even had a chance at 6 wins maybe just maybe in the ACC but Duke would’ve definetly been playing in the Orange Bowl as the ACC champs without a doubt all I’m asking is that you hope & pray we can stay relatively healthy this season I’d be happy just getting out of fall camp alright fingers crossed but please give Coach Will Muschamp ( the co-SEC Coach of the year in 2012 ) a break he’s a defensive guru he’s still young he now realizes that Driskel was recruited to run a spread like offense and not a pro-style clock controlling alabama 2.0 pound you into submission with huge powerful running backs that will wear you out eventually by the 4 the quarter plus throw in some play action pass or just dump it off to your running back on a screen pass every 3rd down and let your defense & special teams win the games for you, lol even Alabama has stopped that they’re can air it out with the best of them, so Muschamp saw what Auburn could do with a converted defensive back as their quarterback, look he’s still relatively young for a head coach no excuse but he’s figuring it out reminds me a lot of Donovan in many ways they’re both very intelligent I know basketball isn’t scrutinized like the football program or atleast it wasn’t when Donovan was hired at 35 but imagine Muschamp staying coaching here right where he grew up watching the gators and now coaching them the longer he’s around here and recruiting excellent classes he’s gonna get it all and Florida no matter whose coaching us will be back it just to much of a coveted if not the most wanted job in college football I just hope a man like Muschamp who could’ve attended Annapolis & been an officer in the Navy (not to shabby) gets some good breaks like urban did and I know this I don’t care how successful Muschamp ever gets he will never leave the University of Florida as long as we all want him to be out Head Ball Coach I apologize for the long rant & if you actually read all of this well then thank you very much and may God smile on the Gators this season Go Gators!!!!!!!!

  4. Kaleb Wolfe says:

    As for Roper not bringing up Adam Lane cuz he has been a beast in practice I think is just simply cuz he’s a little banged up this week & there’s wasn’t really much to say cuz he’s been held out of practice ???

    • Michael Jones says:

      Glad to hear that. Still working on your previous sentence, which may be a world record. Had to take a coffee break but there was some good stuff in there as far as I got.

  5. Michael J. says:

    You know, the injury thing is a crutch used by Florida as an excuse for being a bad team. Easley was a great player, certainly the best on the team, but the team should not fall apart like the Gators did when he went down. Oklahoma also lost their leader and best player on defense, yet they replaced him with a true freshman and thrived. Debose has never been a good player, so what difference did losing him make? We saw a healthy UF team lose to Miami, the only good team in their early schedule. A big reason for that loss was that Jeff Driskel sucked. So it’s also not a given that the Gators would have been better with Driskel. I saw Morrison mentioned, he was awful before his injury, so how did his absence hurt UF? It’s also a fallacy that UF was so injured that they had to play walkons. The only reason a walkon linebacker played is because the scholarship guy, McMillian, was still in a fog about doing his assignments at linebacker. It’s also a fallacy to say that UF had a great defense based on the bad teams they played early. The only good team they played, Miami, the defense faltered against. No. it wasn’t injuries that doomed UF, it was the lack of talented players. Every facet of UF in 2013 was not good, offense, defense, and special teams. Along with a “woe is me” attitude that Muschamp mentioned and a team that was full of divisions, it was too much for UF to overcome. I hope UF is better in 2014, but Jeff Driskel is still the quarterback, so I would not bet on UF exceeding the 7.5 over/under wins line set by Vegas.

  6. Michael J. says:

    I’m just pointing out reality. It’s ne thing to be positive, but it’s quite another to base it on things that are not true. IF anything I say isn’t true, then it should be pointed out. The fact is that UF had only one area on the entire team that played well last year, that was the secondary, even the running backs were average, at best. When someone says injuries were the reason for UF’s demise, they are correct, but only partly so, there were other factors. The healthy guys didn’t play well when they were on the field. An example is Dante Fowler, probably UF’s best player after Hargreaves. Durkin said that Fowler was almost a dominant player sometimes last year, but there were other games when he failed to show up. Watch him against LSU for an example of the latter or realize that he was the one who blew his assignment to allow Gurley to catch a dump off pass that turned into a long touchdown. People want to criticize coaches, but like Muschamp said about that particular play, when you have the right defense called and the player doesn’t do his job, that’s what gets you beat. The same thing happened against Miami on the bomb, the coaches had the correct call, but Mayes didn’t do his job. No, it’s not being negative to point out the fact that UF wasn’t so injured that they were forced to play walkons, it’s just reality.

    • It’s one thing to rarely be positive. It’s another to never have anything positive to say. You obviously appear to have some sort of agenda here.

      I’m not looking for a response. Especially one that’s going to be hundreds of words. Just take a breather and think about the fact that you’re only bringing one perspective to the table – pure negativity.

      • Michael J. says:

        The only positive thing to say about the Gators is that Hargreaves was a fantastic freshman, and may become the best corner in college football. I don’t think there was even one other player that came close to being great on UF last year, in fact most were mediocre. I can only go on what I see, and there’s nothing positive about the gators last year. Even the defense may have been good statistically, but statistics don’t win games. Turnovers and stopping the other team at a critical time does, and the Gator defense never did that against a good team, or even one poor team like Georgia Southern. This is a new season, things can change, but you have to go with the data before you, and the data says that the Gators are not a talented team.

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