8/19: Roper talks backup quarterbacks, Leak

By Adam Silverstein
August 19, 2014

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


Redshirt junior Jeff Driskel will be Florida’s starting quarterback. That much has been known for months. As far as who will be backing him up on game days, well, the Gators do not seem to be any closer to making a decision on that despite previously pinpointing this week as the ideal time to come to a conclusion.

Roper on Tuesday indicated that the battle between freshmen Will Grier and Treon Harris is “fun to watch” with both players competing hard and still being good teammates to each other. He is just waiting to see some separation.

“The biggest thing is you look for production on their team reps as big as anything else. Sometimes production isn’t making a play, it’s keeping a bad play from being worse, if that makes sense. So really playing fast, playing quick, being decisive and being productive,” he explained.

The battle remains “fluid,” according to Roper, who said that even though it is “getting close to decision-making time,” the winner out of fall camp may not be the second-string quarterback throughout the entire season.

“The first thought process is, if Jeff goes down, you’ve got to be prepared to go win that game when it happens. That’s really where the decision starts and why it never stops and can always be fluid,” he noted.

That is where a wrinkle comes into play. Roper, as he has in the past, may want to use a second quarterback during games like he has at other stops. That signal caller would likely be given his own package of plays to run as a way for Florida to ensure the defense remains unbalanced and honest.

Unfortunately, the best “second quarterback” may not be the same player as the best “backup quarterback” for Driskel, meaning an injury to the starter could result in neither of UF’s freshmen getting redshirts. That is not an ideal situation for the Gators.

“The biggest thing is to have a guy, a second quarterback, that can go play the game if something happens to the first one,” Roper said. “We’ll use two if they earn the right but really it gets into how does it help us win.”


Florida wide receivers coach Chris Leak stepped up big for the Gators this offseason, taking a job on the spot after the school forced Joker Phillips to resign from his position. To this point, Roper is pleased not only with Leak as a coach but also how well his group has played in practice.

“I think he’s done a really good job. I think the guys are working hard for him. I think they’re getting better fundamentally on some of the things that he’s working on with releases and things like that,” Roper said on Tuesday. “So you see development in the group, and I think you see a group that goes to the field and works hard for their coach. And that’s what you’re looking for. But I think he’s done a good job.”

There has definitely been a learning curve for Leak coaching the wide receivers, but Roper was quick to point out that is usually the case for first-year position coaches. The reason Leak and others like him succeed in taking on such a difficult job without the requisite experience is because of what they do outside of the white lines.

“Really, to be a good coach, it just takes a lot of effort and want-to. If you get a guy like that, that will put in the time, I always describe it as turning on the lights and turning off the lights. You know, beat everybody there and leave after everybody leaves,” he explained.

“If you’ll put that time in, then you’ve got a chance to be a good football coach. I mean, it’s football. It’s 22 people. You know, I mean, it ain’t complex math here. So if you’ll work hard, you got a chance to be a good football coach.”

Roper is also pleased with Leak’s ability to “teach [the] big picture.” In other words, showing his receivers how their particular routes and decisions affect not only the quarterback but the entire offensive system as a whole.

“Everybody plays a role within a play and sometimes your route is a route that is supposed to maybe try to help somebody else get open. So, if you don’t do a great job of running your route, then it doesn’t work,” he noted. “So I think [Leak] can get that information across really well to the guys, how it all ties together.”

Redshirt senior wide receiver Andre Debose, for whom Leak is his sixth position coach in as many seasons, is equally pleased with what his new teacher has brought to the table.

“Working with Coach Leak has been amazing. I always grew up watching him play throughout all the glory days here at Florida. Just being in a meeting room with him and seeing him every day, hearing his knowledge,” he began. “When he first started playing football, a lot of people don’t know Coach Leak learned to play wide receiver first before he played quarterback. So he knows his stuff and he knows a lot about the position. He’s definitely a great coach.”

Debose also complimented Leak’s famous release. “Nothing against Driskel but, Leak, there’s nothing like that spiral.”


» On former Florida offensive coordinator Mike Shanahan (1980-83) being on campus Monday: ” First time I’ve met him. I actually played for coach Mike Heimerdinger, who has a background here. When I went to Rice, I was a quarterback for about a week and then they moved me to defensive back. But he and Coach Heimerdinger worked together a long time. … But yeah, obviously Coach Shanahan has a lot of Florida ties.”

» On his enthusiasm for his talented group of running backs: ” I think we do have a good group. I think we’ve got guys that are experienced, that are playmakers, that understand protection, that can make plays in the passing game. I don’t think you can ever have enough numbers there, I really don’t. I think that’s a physical position that is hard to stay healthy. I’m glad we’ve got a bunch of guys. Again, I believe if a guy earns the right to play, you’ve got to find a way to play him some. It doesn’t mean maybe he plays the whole game, but we need to be prepared to use all our weapons. And really, all we want to do is score points. Who is capable of scoring? I think those guys getting the football are good with it in space.”

» On how the offensive line is looking: “I think we re pretty good there. We’ve got to go play a game. You like to take it one game at a time and not get too far ahead of yourself, but I think we’ve got a good group. I really do.”

» On whether he’s seen the video of two Gators blocking each other from 2013: “[Laughing] I’ve seen it. I’ve seen it. To me, things like that happen. So, last year we were 10-2 [at Duke], pretty good team. We’re playing North Carolina to win the Coastal [Division] outright. We’re down 25-24, we got the ball on the six-yard line, we have 2nd-and-Goal, so touchdown’s big, field goal puts us ahead. We’re running down about three minutes to go in the game, I call a play and both our guards pull. One of them was supposed to pull and the other one wasn’t. Well, they messed up, both guards pulled and ran right into each other. That doesn’t get mentioned because we went 10-2 in the regular season. Nobody sees it. How many times defensive linemen run twist games up front and run right into each other. And I think it’s just a product of the season because you could watch any game and see those things all the time.”


  1. Dave Massey says:

    Hey Adam,

    Assuming JD stays healthy, what are the redshirt rules on how much a player can play before he can’t take a redshirt, in case both of the freshman are played some early in the year, and does an injury affect that?

  2. G2 says:

    I thought Grier wanted to redshirt early on? Think Treon wins the job since he is a better runner, Grier gets a redshirt. Kind of a Trey Burton role with one important difference, he will actually throw the ball!

  3. Michael J. says:

    I think the guy chosen to be the backup will become the starter by mid-season. I’m not drinking the Kool-Aid on Jeff Driskel. We’ve all seen him play, so to not think he’ll ever be good is not a shock. I’d be shocked if he did become good.
    I think it will be Treon Harris. He should get to play some before the jeff Driskel experiment ends. I hope so, it’s been so long since UF was good enough to put a team away so the reserves could be sent in, in fact I can’t remember a time since Tim Tebow left. But Idaho and Eastern Michigan are two of the worst teams in college football, so that drought should end. It will be a drag to watch a game where one team is so horrible, but I hope to see UF’s next quarterback play.

    • G2 says:

      I’m not sure about Jeff either but think he has a scheme that fits him, decent OL, and good RB’s. The guy was 10-2 in 2012, he just didn’t look very good last year. If he comes on strong we can win any game we play except for the traditional beatdown by Bama.

    • Michael Jones says:

      It will be a drag to watch a game where one of the teams is so horrible? Better not watch any of your Noles’ conference games then.

  4. 5wideU says:

    Michael J.,

    You’re flat out dreaming. I know you’re a Nole and a Driskel basher but the guy is athletic and has a great arm. There is almost no chance a true freshman comes in and is inserted against LSU, UGA, etc. unless it’s out of necessity. You need to think a little longer before making nonsense statements like that.

    • gatorboi352 says:

      “and has a great arm.”

      People keep saying this, but I cannot for the life of me recall even 3 deep balls he’s thrown at UF that looked even marginally on target.

      • Michael Jones says:

        But that’s not because of Driskel, Gatorboi. That’s because of insanely predictable overly conservative play calling. We may not have even CALLED more than 3 deep passes in his tenure at QB. But I suspect that’s about to change . . . .

        GO GATORS!!!!

  5. aziatic41 says:

    Driskel is going to be a very productive QB in Roper’s system. In 2012 he was solid in an anemic pro-style Pease Muschamp-led offense. He can only go up from there in a more wide-open offense, under the gun with easier reads. But, I am still worried a little of Driskel’s decision making and his baseball like release when he’s pressured.

    Treon Harris will probably win the back-up job because he’s a better runner than Grier. And Roper will use a two-QB system if needed. People also need to realize Treon is a winner and big-time competitor as witnessed at Booker T Washington during his high school years. Grier dominated against weak competition in HS in a private league. Rankings can be very deceiving.

    • Michael Jones says:

      Why do commenters on this site keep saying that Treon is the better runner? Have you seen Grier run and Treon run so that you can compare the two?

      Help me out here. I am baffled or perhaps I’ve missed Roper or Muschamp saying that in an interview.

      • Dave Massey says:

        I have seen highlight of Treon and he is nimble and quick. Much different style runner that Driskell or even Grier, he is kind of a slasher. How much that transfers to yardage remains to be seen. Grier will always be a passer first and a runner second. The transition from high school to college in the passing game is much more difficult than in the running game.

        Treon will probably win the backup job this year because it is less risky to let him run a lot than let Grier throw a lot. And Grier has said all along that he wants to redshirt. And to be clear, this is just my opinion.

  6. aziatic41 says:

    @Micheal Jones,

    Treon Harris runs a 4.4 in the 40 and Grier runs a 4.7. Treon did most of his damage in high school running the ball and scrambling and Grier did his damage passing the ball from the pocket. They are both true freshman. Not rocket science my man.

  7. G2 says:

    I have no problem with Treon coming in and running a 2 QB systeml, will take some stress off JD. The kid can throw and run, plus he’s a winner. The knock on Jeff was the competition level, just like mentioned above with Grier. This is Jeff year to shine, we have no excuses …. spread offense, decent OL, loaded at RB, some good receivers etc.

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