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Thursday December 26, 2013 Gators OC Kurt Roper and longtime mentor Cutcliffe discuss Roper's move to UF

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- New Gators offensive coordinator Kurt Roper is in Atlanta preparing for Duke's game against Texas A&M on Tuesday in the Chick-Fil-A-Bowl.

Once the game is over, Roper will head to Gainesville and start the next chapter of a coaching career that began in 1996 as a graduate assistant at Tennessee.

Kurt Roper

Roper and Duke head coach David Cutcliffe were on a conference call earlier this afternoon to discuss Roper's move.

Roper has spent every season of his coaching career but one -- 2005 at Kentucky -- on the same staff as Cutcliffe, Tennessee's offensive coordinator during the Peyton Manning era, Ole Miss' head coach when Eli Manning starred for the Rebels, and the past six years at Duke.

The Blue Devils won a school-record 10 games this season.

Here are some highlights from the conference call in a Q-and-A format:

First, here is Cutcliffe, who praised Roper for his loyalty and hard work during their time together:

Q: Did you encourage Roper to take this job and do you feel he is ready for the pressure at Florida and the SEC?

A: I didn't encourage him. I certainly want our coaches to do where their heart leads them. Kurt had a job here and would have continued to have a job at Duke. I'm very pleased with what he has accomplished here as the offensive coordinator. But this is an opportunity for him somewhat to be out on his own. I think he is looking forward to that. As far as the pressures go, he is definitely ready for that. He has been in the Southeastern Conference at [three] institutions and understands the intensity level that is involved in that league in football. His work ethic -- that's what it's all about. They will be prepared. They will be prepared well. That just has to be personal preference at that point.

Q: What do you see as Roper's strengths as a coach?

A: The things we pride ourselves in, the detail in training quarterbacks, the attention to detail in preparing an offensive team for playing a game, practice habits. It's the total package. I think if you have a systematic approach, everything is covered. You try to take a group of players offensively, and that's what your job is as an offensive coordinator, and put them in every circumstance they can possibly be in in a game in practice and build confidence through great execution. Kurt will certainly [do that]. That will be one of their great strengths -- they will be extremely well prepared coming out of practice.

Q: What is Roper's personal coaching style in your opinion?

A: His style would be intensity, tempo, and quality of repetition. From the minute they hit the field, it's going to intense. I wouldn't call him a laid-back football coach by any stretch of the imagination. It's going to be what we call 'treat the ground like a hot stove.' If you hit the ground, you better get up running. By the time they get on the field until they get off, they are going to be moving and getting a bunch of quality reps. I would call it very intense.

Next up is Roper, who will become an offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach for the third time. He served in the same role at Duke and Ole Miss:

Q: What are your thoughts on this opportunity and what made this the right choice for you?

A: I thought obviously this is the right situation for me and my family at the right time. It's obviously a great university that has a great tradition. I look forward trying to add to that.

Q: What sold you on coming to Florida and how much of a challenge do you view it?

A: Coach Muschamp is really excited about the future there. He's excited about the talent level that he has there. He is excited about the opportunities that Florida has to compete for championships, so that obviously is something that I'm very interested in doing. And everywhere you go is a challenge. It doesn't matter where you're coaching, who you are coaching with; everything is a challenge. It's just the next challenge is the way I look at it. I don't have any limitations or preconceived thoughts going in. I'm going down there to try and coach to the best of my ability and try to win games and win championships.

Kurt Roper

Q: With your history in the SEC what are your thoughts on the level of expectations from a fan base like Florida's?

A: Obviously the expectations are high and they should be. They've won a lot of games at Florida and they've won a lot of championships. The expectations are going to be high anywhere in the SEC, but like I said, it's all going that way. We won 10 here at Duke this year. The expectations are great and I understand that going in. We're at the University of Florida that obviously has a great tradition and has met those expectations a lot in the past. I'm just looking forward to it.

Q: How familiar are you with Florida's personnel?

A: I'm obviously not very familiar at all right now; just been focused on this bowl game the next week or so and then I'll start trying to get myself familiar. I know that [Jeff] Driskel is the quarterback and don't know much beyond that.

Q: When do you think you will get involved with recruiting?

A: As soon as I can. I think obviously I've got a week here that I need to focus on and be my best for these guys one last time. And then when I can get everything situated and get down to Gainesville, then you start focusing on that.

Q: How much impact do you think you will have on the hiring of an offensive line coach?

A: I think obviously Coach Muschamp is the guy who is going to make hires for the program. I will obviously have discussions and things like that, but we're all going to be on the same page. It's not just Coach Muschamp and myself. It's going to be everybody that is involved on offense.

Q: What will it be like stepping out of Coach Cutcliffe's shadow?

A: I've been doing it too long [to be nervous]. I went to Ole Miss with him and after two years I was calling [the offense]. I did it four years there and then I've done it all six years here. I won't have any nerves.

Q: You worked with Gators receivers coach Joker Phillips for a year at Kentucky and what impact did he have on your connection with an up-tempo offense?

A: That was a great year working with Joker and [former Kentucky head coach Rich Brooks] and that whole staff. I learned a lot of football and created a lot of great relationships. But Joker, when he was offensive coordinator, wanted to install a no-huddle system so we could go in and out of huddle, no-huddle or whatnot. So really that was my first experience with it.

Q: And your thoughts on working with Phillips again?

A: Joker and I get along great. I think he is a heck of a football coach first, but we're really good friends. I think he is a good man, a great recruiter. He's a guy I will enjoy being around every day and I look forward to getting back with him.

Q: How difficult it is to adjust your system to the personnel you have, especially in that first year?

A: That's a good question. I think you've got plenty of time through spring practice and through fall practice to make those decisions. What we're going to do, what we've always done, is you determine what your quarterback is good at executing, you determine what your five linemen are good at executing, and then through practice, you determine who has earned the right to have the football and you try to make your decisions based on that. You get 15 opportunities in spring to make those decisions and you get 29 practice opportunities in the fall. Everything moves fast but you've got to figure those things out.

Q: What was it like to face off against Muschamp in the SEC when he was a defensive coordinator?

A: He is obviously been a great defensive coach for a long time and was hard to battle against. He was always multiple and caused problems in pressure and his guys were always physical and intense. I'm looking forward to obviously working with Coach Muschamp.

Q: What is your philosophy schematically?

A: The biggest thing is you've got to find out the strengths of your quarterback and the strengths of your offensive line. Once you find those strengths, then you can start putting together what you are going to hang your hat on offensively. Then the other five players, you've got to find out who can make something happen with the football. You try to find a way to get those guys the football and then you create your personnel and your formations based on that. I think there is reason for tempo in a game. It obviously causes some defenses problems, but we'll never sacrifice tempo over execution. We want to play fast but we still want to play smart and take care of the football. Our core philosophy will never change, and it's very simple, but it's the truth of the matter. Our whole philosophy is five points: we want to get 11 people on the field, we want to get them lined up, we want to get them set with motion, we want to snap the ball before the play clock runs out and we want the ball at the end of the play. Those things are what we'll coach. Coaching is not plays or formation. It's how to make decisions and how to play the game with effort and those type things. We've got to go in and find out who are the playmakers with the ball and what our players are capable of doing up front and what we're capable of doing at the quarterback position.

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