Gator fans received a belated Christmas gift Thursday when the school announced that Kurt Roper would be hired as the team’s next offensive coordinator and quarterback’s coach.
Reports surfaced Tuesday that Roper would be leaving Duke to join the Gators, but it did not become official until Thursday morning. Roper will still coach the Blue Devils’ offense in the Dec. 31 Chick-fil-A Bowl against Texas A&M.
For the past six seasons, Roper has served as Duke’s offensive coordinator, assistant head coach and quarterback’s coach under David Cutcliffe. Roper also has an extensive coaching background in the Southeastern Conference. Prior to his time at Duke he served two seasons as running back’s coach at Tennessee (2006-07), one season as quarterback’s coach at Kentucky (2005) and six seasons at Ole Miss, also under Cutcliffe (1999-2004).
As head coach Will Muschamp’s third coordinator in four years, Roper will be charged with turning around one of the worst offenses in the country. Florida’s offense has never ranked higher than 97th nationally under Muschamp, and has regressed, at least statistically speaking, in each of the past three seasons. In 2013, Florida finished dead last in the SEC in total offense (316.7 yards per game) and scoring offense (18.8 points per game).
Roper is a perfect fit for what Muschamp has been looking for in his new offensive coordinator. His offense features both up-tempo and pro-style elements. This season, Duke’s offense ranked 47th nationally, averaging 408.1 yards per game. The Blue Devils also scored a school-record 411 points, and still have a bowl game to play.
There is no denying the importance of this hire for Muschamp. Florida will have to show vast improvement from its 4-8 finish in 2013 if Muschamp hopes to keep his job past next season, otherwise athletic director Jeremy Foley will not hesitate to clean house. Roper is taking a big risk here too. At Duke he would have had job security under Cutcliffe, now he will be on his own at Florida, and if he fails, he could be looking for another job this time again next year.
Roper may not have been the most attractive name to have been connected to the Florida job in the past few weeks, but hey, it didn’t turn out so bad the last time the Gators hired a play-caller from Duke.
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