Switch to up-tempo creates matchups

Kurt Roper isn't two weeks into his new job as the offensive coordinator at Florida, but he already knows what he's going to be installing when the Gators hit the practice field. There are still specifics to be decided once he figures out the strengths and weaknesses of his roster, but the first-year Florida offensive coordinator is trying to create as many one-on-one matchups as possible.

In all of the offenses Roper has been a part of, that's always the goal. Whether it was running a traditional two-back offense at Ole Miss or the different looks of the Duke offense in recent years, the ideal scenario never changed.

He wants his best playmakers to end up with the ball in a one-on-one situation.

"If you can play the game with some tempo and speed and you can play it in space, you create as many one-on-one tackle opportunities as you can," Kurt Roper said. "If you can create a bunch of one-on-one tackle opportunities, then you have a chance to have positive yards and positive yards keep you on the field. Playing the game in space creates more opportunities to score points."

The spring will be full of adjustments for the offensive players on the Florida roster. They'll be learning a new offensive scheme but also a new tempo. Gone are the days when the Florida roster will be walking back to the huddle before jogging out to line up and wait for the snap.

Everything is done at a quick pace.

Despite that, Roper isn't concerned about what the Gators will look like in the spring. Through the inconsistencies will come learning opportunities while the team prepares for the 2014 season.

"I don't think there's any concern," Roper said. "I think there's an adjustment period. Over time, they'll get to the point where they enjoy it."

The adjustment to an up-tempo offense is usually easier for the skill players than the offensive linemen. In Roper's experience with it, the skill players actually like it more. Instead of ending a play, jogging back to the huddle and then jogging out wide to set up before a play, the receivers will now end a play and jog right back to their spot on the line of scrimmage, conserving their energy.

The offensive line has to do more work. After a play is over, they'll also be hurrying back into position where they have to get into a stance before the snap of the ball. The spring practice adjustment isn't as much for the skill players as it is the offensive line.

With that comes the excitement of being able to deliver the blow. First-year offensive line coach Mike Summers said on Monday that before the up-tempo offenses came along, the opposing defenses were able to move around and be creative with blitzes before teeing off on the offensive line after the snap.

The up-tempo offense can flip the script. The Gators, who will be conditioned for running it, will be able to get set up before pushing a tired defensive line around after the snap.

"For a long time, the offensive line had a bulls-eye on their chest and the defense was allowed to take target practice at us with their blitz pressures and the things that they do," Summers said. "The up-tempo kind of gives us a little more command over what goes on now. We're able to get up, execute, without allowing them to substitute and we're able to get up and execute our offensive schemes before they are allowed to get up there and dictate strength of formations, and try and blitz backs and do those kinds of things."

Roper's offense, regardless of the tempo, is built around the quarterback. They'll use his strengths before deciding what else the offense will do. After that, the focus is on the offensive line and not asking the unit to block something it isn't comfortable with. Then the decision is made of who will carry the football and who will catch it.

The move to an up-tempo offense will also help out the Florida defense this offseason. The Gators saw plenty of up-tempo offense from opponents last season, so the move should also help the defense prepare for what it will see once the 2014 season gets started.

"Look at all the teams we played," Will Muschamp said. "Of the 12 games we played, probably eight of them are up-tempo. You have to make those adjustments as you continue to move forward because that's really where the game is moving, and it helps you defensively be able to do that."

The change in offense also means Muschamp will give Roper the freedom to run his offense. Asked about it on Monday, Muschamp was defensive about any claims that he didn't allow previous offensive coordinators at Florida to run the offense they wanted.

"He'll have the autonomy to run the offense and stay balanced. I have called that many offensive plays since I have been at the University of Florida," Muschamp said, forming a zero with right hand.

With the heat on the Florida coaching staff following last season's 4-8 record, Roper sacrificed security at Duke under his mentor David Cutcliffe to step out and try to create a name for himself in Gainesville.

Even with the heat on the coaches in Gainesville and the possibility of his tenure lasting only one season if 2014 doesn't go well, Roper was drawn to the history and tradition at Florida. He has watched the school win titles and produce Heisman Trophy winners at the position he'll be coaching.

"When you come to a place like Florida, you understand what people expect because you can look on the wall and see how many championships they've won in the SEC and national championships," Roper said. "The expectations are obviously high, but that's a good thing. That's why you end up with good football players here because they want to come to a place where winning has happened and winning will happen again. You put a bunch of people in the seats in the stadium that will cheer them on.

"The expectations come with a lot of good things, too. The reason you can go out and get football players. I think every coach understands winning is the bottom line in this profession, no matter where you go. That's all our goal when we get up there and go to work."

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