The first thing Roper needs to do is attain an offensive line coach that he can work effectively with. Roper started how important the offensive line is in the scheme of the offense on Thursday during a conference call.
"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."
The talk of December with regards to offensive line coaches has been Western Kentucky offensive line coach Neil Callaway and most recently Stacy Searels of Texas. Both were rumored to have been on the lost two years ago and both rumored to turn it down for various reasons. This time around Callaway is probably not where he intended to be and Searils is in limbo after his head coach resigned earlier in the month.
Both seem to be great hires with exceptional experience and time in the Southeastern Conference. The list certainly shouldn't be limited to here, but they seem to be attainable targets at this time and reason for optimism at the coaching position.
Once the offensive line coach is hired, Roper really needs to turn his mind to recruiting. Signing day is February 4 and the Gators are still in need of some serious play makers on offense. Of utmost importance is keeping the guys that are committed and having them stay in the fold. The two key targets are running back Dalvin Cook of Miami Central and receiver Ermon Lane of Homestead. Cook is an early enrollee and though committed to the Gators, he has said he will make a final decision on January 2, at the Under Armour All-American Game. Roper needs to be as proactive as possible in talking with Cook, yet he cannot see him in person. Not an easy deal, but certainly som4ething he has come across in his years as a recruiter.
After recruiting hard and solidifying those that he can, Roper needs to turn to his quarterbacks. Both early enrollee Will Grier and returning junior Jeff Driskel will be on campus in January. Although he can't schedule meeting time with the two, they can volunteer for meetings with the coach and need to do so as much as possible leading up to the spring.
One of the things that Roper was brought in for was his ability to train quarterbacks and utilize their talents. Students like Eli Manning at Ole Miss and Thadeus Lewis at Duke show the variety of ways he can coach up players to perform on the field, both guys having really different skill sets and performing at a high level with Roper's tutelage.
It is time to use the skills that Driskel has appropriately. We have seen him throw the best of throws and make the best of runs from the quarterback position. He needs to be put in a position to utilize both talents and get away from his weaknesses. This alone would have made the offense better in each of the last two years.
Then he needs to groom Grier and have him ready. With nobody else to fall back on, Grier needs to be able to step in and compete, and again, use the skills he has to be the best he can be. This is supposedly Roper's strong suit, let's see it happen.
While prepping the quarterbacks in the film room starting in January, Roper will also have to work with his offensive staff to coordinate a spring practice that is efficient and effective. This can be started the day after the bowl game with Duke. The returning staff members along with film on hand will have to help with figuring out where to start with the players and evaluate the talent for whatever type of system they will shoot for given that talent.
All of that should be enough to keep Roper busy until April.
In the end this has to be a quick and aggressive fix. In his favor is the experience of some players on the team that might not have had that experience given the injuries. Namely, Trenton Brown and Trip Thurman on the offensive line, Kelvin Taylor at running back.
Then of course he should get back injured players like Driskel, Matt Jones, Colin Thompson, Andre Debose, Chaz Green, D.J. Humphries, and Tyler Moore. That group will go a long way in figuring out whether 2014 will be a successful season or not and a long way in making Roper's star shine or not.