Florida Names Kurt Roper Offensive Coordinator; Former Duke Assistant Hired to Lead Gators’ Offense

The Gators have found their man. Florida has announced the hiring of Kurt Roper as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Roper–a finalist for the 2013 Frank Broyles Award presented to the nation’s top assistant–comes to the Gators from Duke where he was part of this season’s 10-win, ACC runner-up Blue Devils team.

Kurt Roper, Florida Gators

While the news leaked earlier in the weak, the official announcement came from Florida head coach Will Muschamp on Thursday. Muschamp mentioned tempo and ability to adapt to talent as two of the key reasons he brought Roper to the Gators.

“He has a diverse, up-tempo background on offense and does a good job of adapting to what the players do best. The most important thing though is he has always remained balanced,” said Muschamp.

Roper has spent nearly his entire coaching career under the tutelage of David Cutcliffe. He began his coaching career at Tennessee in 1996 as a graduate assistant before moving to Ole Miss with Cutcliffe. At Ole Miss, he coached quarterbacks from 1998 to 2004. In 2005, Roper and Cutcliffe parted ways as Roper went to coach quarterbacks at Kentucky (under then Wildcats’ offensive coordinator Joker Phillips). The two would reunite at Tennessee for two seasons before heading to Duke in 2008. They have spent the last six seasons together building the Blue Devils into a team that is about to make its second-straight bowl appearance. The program had never previously been bowling in back-to-back seasons.

If you’re into big names, Roper was Eli Manning’s position coach at Ole Miss and Arian Foster’s at Tennessee. Many will point to much of his success being a direct result of working with Cutcliffe, who just happened to be Peyton Manning’s position coach at Tennessee. While true, there are worse people to learn the ins and outs of coaching an offense from than David Cutcliffe. Everyone learned their trade from someone and Cutcliffe had some successes in big conference football.

While Roper may not have been the first choice of fans or even Muschamp, he presents a different background than that of former offensive coordinator Brent Pease. Pease spent five years as an assistant at BCS schools, while Roper has spent his entire career on the staffs of larger programs. That is sure to bring at least a smirk to the faces of those that aren’t fond of Florida hiring from the lower ranks.

For Roper, it all comes down to the 2014 season. That may not exactly be fair to the newly hired offensive coordinator, but those are the cards he’s been dealt and the ones he’s chosen to play with. He gets one season to prove himself because Muschamp may only have one more to save himself. 2014 is not just a defining season for both men, it has everything to do with whether they’ll still be on the Florida sidelines in 2015.

Fox Force Five: The SEC Coaching Carousel Has Finally Stopped Turning

SEC commentary in five parts, as in there’s one, two, three, four, five of them.

The SEC looked anew in 2012. With two programs – Missouri and Texas A&M (don’t forget, Florida beat them both #smugface) – joining the mix, change had come. When the Aggies overachieved by knocking off No. 1 Alabama and producing a genuine Heisman candidate, we all took notice and realized the future of the Southeastern Conference would be cast in a very different light.

Joker Phillips - Kentucky Wildcats

This offseason doesn’t have the look of conference expansion or realignment for the SEC. The 14 teams that entered 2012 will remain in 2013 and no others will join. Sure, we’ll see a 16-team SEC one day, but that day isn’t immediately ahead of us. While 2012 was about new programs, 2013 will be about new coaches. Four, in fact. Out is a man with a secret exposed, a recent national champion and two that never found success. In are hopes and dreams.

1. Kentucky was the first program to find their new coach and we can hardly classify it as a good hire. That’s not a knock on Mark Stoops (Florida State’s former defensive coordinator who should have been run out of Tallahassee after the fourth quarter against the Gators. Uh, BOOM!). Stoops can be a good head coach one day, and at 45 he has plenty of time to do so, but this is Kentucky. The focus will always be on basketball and while the Wildcats will have a bowl season or two here or there, there isn’t much of a chance to make noise in the competitive SEC East. Stoops will most likely get the same three-year window Joker Phillips got.

2. Speaking of Joker Phillips, the Florida Gators finally have a true wide receivers’ coach. I like this hire and you should too. Phillips’s record at Kentucky was nothing special, but as mentioned above, it was Kentucky. It was no walk in the park to compete with the rest of the SEC. So Phillips goes back to the assistant coach ranks and the Gators should be pleased to have him (which I’m sure they are because otherwise Will Muschamp wouldn’t have added him to the staff). In addition to other responsibilities at times, Phillips has 18 years of experience as a wide receivers’ coach. And, oh yeah, he’ll also be the recruiting coordinator. Florida could do a lot worse. Welcome aboard Joker.

3. Gene Chizik came to Auburn from Iowa State where he compiled a record of 5-19. That’s right, he was 5-19. At Auburn, things got better and he brought the school a national title in 2010. Actually, Cam Newton and Gus Malzahn got the Tigers a championship. Did you know that without Malzahn on his staff, Chizik’s career record is 8-28? That’s bad, but even worse is that he went 2-22 in conference games. All he did with Malzahn was go 30-10 with a 15-9 record in conference play and win that title. So after Auburn fired Chizik, they hired Malzahn.. Good choice.

4. By default, I am a Wisconsin fan. Let’s be clear, my in-laws are Badgers’ fans and they would be my Big Ten team of choice if forced to pick a team from a conference that rarely crosses my radar. But over the past few years, I’ve learned to like Bucky and send good vibes the way of the Badgers. I was never much of a fan of Bret Bielema, but he won 10 or more games four times and three Rose Bowls in a row is three Rose Bowls in a row. Then he left to become the head coach at Arkansas, which I don’t understand. None of us do. Bielema has been outside of the Big Ten for exact two years of his coaching career (as co-defensive coordinator at Kansas State in 2002 and 2003). This should be interesting to say the least. I don’t know if the phrase “good fit” even comes close to touching this one.

5. And finally, we waited and waited and waited to find out who would want to coach the train wreck of a program Tennessee has become. It wasn’t Mike Gundy and it wasn’t Charlie Strong (PHEW!) and it came close to being nobody. The Vols are down and recruiting has become tougher. The SEC (and specifically the SEC East) isn’t what it used to be and this will be an uphill battle. Butch Jones took the job and, for him, it makes sense. Tennessee may have its problems, but it’s a definite step up from Cincinnati. I don’t wish him good luck, because I’m not permitted to. I can only hope they are looking for a new head coach again in Knoxville in a few short years.

SEC Coaches And Their SEC Backgrounds

SEC Media Days are currently happening. You already knew that because you are a good fan that follows everything there is to follow about the SEC. You know that during these days, we hear a lot from the head coaches at the 12 SEC programs. We hear their thoughts of the state of the SEC, what the future of the SEC might bring, and how they like SEC. Basically, it is a lot of SEC.
12 coaches in all and plenty with experience in the SEC before their current positions. Whether they were a head coach at another SEC school in the past, an assistant somewhere else within the conference, or actually played in the SEC, they have been around the conference’s block. Did you know that only three of the current 12 SEC head coaches – or 25% – are at their first SEC stop? Of the remaining nine – which would make 75% – seven are with their second SEC program in one capacity or another. The remaining two have been at three or more places with Florida’s own Will Muschamp leading the way with four stops (for those liking the percentages, that means Muschamp has played or coached at 33% of the SEC programs). The current SEC head coaches average ties to exactly two SEC schools.
I will admit that is a lot of numbers. And there are more. For instance, four coaches (33% again) have ties to the Gators. But that is enough of that. Trying to keep up with it all can leave you scratching your head and just wishing the season was here so you no longer had to find others things to fill your brain. We at The Bull Gator are here for you. To eliminate the confusion of the numbers and who coached or played where before they became the head coach at a particular SEC school, we have created the chart below. It should clear everything up and paint you a perfect picture of which SEC head coach has ties to which SEC programs. You are very welcome.