Roper knows what he's looking for

When the Gators open spring practice and implement a new offense under first-year offensive coordinator Kurt Roper, it won't be a guessing game on the practice field. Roper knows where to start. He spoke with reporters during a conference call on Thursday afternoon, explaining what he he'll focus on in the spring before deciding what the Florida offense will look like in 2014.

It all starts under center for Roper. Working with quarterbacks in 14 of his 18 seasons as an assistant coach, that's what he builds his offense around. He will not set up an offensive scheme unless it plays perfectly into the strengths of the quarterback.

In this case, that's Jeff Driskel. Roper admitted on Thursday that the only thing he knows about the Florida roster is that Driskel is the quarterback. He'll spend the spring working with Driskel, figuring out what the strengths of his game are and tailoring the Florida offense to work with those strengths.

If the quarterback isn't comfortable, the whole offense will struggle.

It doesn't end there. The quarterback is the ultimate focus of what Roper wants to build, but the second part is almost as important. Roper wants to focus on the offensive line he'll have at Florida and figure out what their strengths are. The line will be better at blocking some plays more than others, and Roper wants to make sure they're comfortable and confident in the plays called for them to execute on Saturdays.

"What we're going to do, what we've always done, is determine what your quarterback is good at executing and determine what your five linemen are good at executing," Kurt Roper said. "Once you find those strengths, then you can start putting together what you're going to start hanging your hat on offensively."

Once the strengths of the quarterback and offensive line have been decided, then Roper starts to look at the receivers, running backs and tight ends to figure out who will touch the ball and make plays for the offense. He's not biased to which of those three positions will get the ball or how often it will happen.

Roper wants to find which playmakers can make things happen down to benefit the offense and get the ball in their hands, regardless of where they line up on the field.

"If it's running backs, if it's tight ends or if it's wide receivers then you try to find the way to get those guys the football and you create personnel or formations based on that," Roper said.

Roper admitted his core philosophy is simple, but it boils down to five actions before the snap. He wants to get 11 offensive players on the field, get them lined up properly, get them set with motion, snap the ball before the play clock runs out and make sure his team has the ball at the end of the play.

"Coaching is not plays or formations, it's how to make decisions and how to play the game with effort," Roper said. "We've got to go in and find out who are the playmakers with the ball and what our players of capable of doing up front and what we're capable of doing at the quarterback position."

There's also a chance of a different looking offense for the Gators. Will Muschamp has been looking at the possibility of going to a spread offense or one that includes tempo. Roper was introduced to an up-tempo offense during his only year at Kentucky in 2005 when Joker Phillips, currently the wide receivers coach at Florida, was the offensive coordinator in Lexington.

Roper said on Thursday that it was the first time he worked on an offense with an up-tempo package and liked what he saw. The Gators could go to it during the 2014 season.

"I think there's a reason for tempo in games that obviously causes defenses problems, but we'll never sacrifice tempo over execution," Roper said. "We want to play fast but we want to play smart and take care of the football. I think you have to figure out what your quarterback and offensive line are capable of doing."


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