GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Florida made the hiring of Kurt Roper as the Gators' third offensive coordinator in the last four years official on Thursday.
Roper will remain with the Duke team and coach the offense against Texas A&M in the Chick-fil-A Bowl on Dec. 31. He is taking over a offense that could be Will Muschamp's last opportunity at remaining the Florida head coach beyond his fourth season in 2014.
Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley made it clear late in the season that the offense had to be fixed - falling out of the top 100 in the nation in total offense the last three years - and said he was confident Muschamp could do it. Brent Pease was let go after two years as the Gators offensive coordinator. That assignment now goes to Roper, who helped Duke reach the ACC title game this season.
Roper's hiring leaked out on Christmas Eve after the two parties had hoped to wait until after the Blue Devils bowl game to make anything official.
Roper is a native of Ames, Iowa, who played quarterback at Rice. He has produced a trio of 3,000-yard passers at Duke. Roper has a long relationship with Duke head coach David Cutcliffe.
He coached with Cutcliffe first as a graduate assistant at Tennessee 1996-98. He joined Cutcliffe when he was hired as the Ole Miss head coach in 1999 and was there six years, working with Eli Manning. After spending 2005 at Kentucky Roper returned to Tennessee in 2006-07 then went to Duke with Cutcliffe in 2008 and has been there since.
The last several years, the Blue Dukes put up record-breaking offensive numbers.
Roper will also serve as quarterbacks coach at Florida.
"From the minute they hit the field it's going to be intense,'' Cutcliffe said. "I wouldn't call him a laid back football coach by any stretch of the imagination so it's going to be what we call it treat the ground like a hot stove. You hit the ground you better get up running. By the time they get on the field and until they get off they are going to be moving. ... I would call it very intense.''
Duke set school records for total touchdowns (54) while becoming the first team in school history to rush and pass for more than 20 TDs in a season.
Quarterbacks Anthony Boone and Brandon Connette combined for 3,045 passing yards and 23 touchdowns this season, while first team All-ACC wide receiver Jamison Crowder set school records with 96 catches for 1,197 yards with seven touchdowns. A pair of Duke running backs each rushed for over 500 yards while Connette became the school's all-time leader in rushing touchdowns (30 in his career). Roper was a finalist this past year for the Broyles Award, which goes to the nation's top assistant.
"I thought obviously it was the right situation for me and my family at the right time,'' Roper said. "It's obviously a great university that has a great tradition. I look forward to trying to add to that.''
Roper, who will receive a multi-year contract worth about $600,000 per year, know demands will be great.
"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,'' he said. "So obviously the expectations are going to be high. That's anywhere in the SEC, it's all going that way. We won 10 here at Duke this year.''
He confessed knowing little about UF's personnel.
"I'm obviously not very familiar at all right now,'' he said. "I've just been focusing on this bowl game obviously for the next week or so and then I'll start getting myself familiar. I know that Driskel is the quarterback and don't know much beyond that.''
Roper credits working with current Gators assistant Joker Phillips when he learned the no-huddle style offense and calls him a "really good man.''
He said the offense, which should be tempo with a lot of fast play calling, will be molded in the spring to fit personnel.
"What we're going to do, what we've always done is you're going to determine what your quarterback is good at excecuting and determine what your five linemen are good at executing and it's through practice, you determine who has earned the right to have the football and you try to determine your decisions based on that,'' Roper said. "So you get 15 opportunities obviously in spring practice to make those decisions. And then you get 29 opportunities (in preseason) to make those decisions in the fall to keep making those decisons and finalizing going into fall camp. everything moves fast but you've got to figure those things out.''
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