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Quarterback Jeff Driskel has impressed first-year offensive coordinator Kurt Roper in spring camp.

Thursday March 27, 2014Roper Impressed by Driskel, Offensive Weapons Early in Spring Camp

Quarterback Jeff Driskel has impressed first-year offensive coordinator Kurt Roper in spring camp.

Scott Carter
By SCOTT CARTER Senior Writer

VIDEO: First-year UF offensive coordinator Kurt Roper's press conference Thursday. writing intern Michelle Provenzano contributed to this report.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- About midway into his first spring camp as Florida's new offensive coordinator, Kurt Roper is confident he has the pieces to solve the Gators' offensive woes.

Quarterback Jeff Driskel is a piece Roper especially likes.

"I didn't get to see him much before I got here,'' Roper said Thursday during his first media session of camp. "That's a big, powerful, fast-twitch, natural throwing motion. He is talented, folks. We're sitting here talking about a guy who is really, really gifted.

Kurt Roper

"He understands football. It's not his first rodeo. He has command of the football and that's hard to teach. You either have command of it or you don't."

A redshirt junior, Driskel is coming back from a broken leg that required season-ending surgery. He started the first three games of the season but was injured in the first quarter against Tennessee.

Florida's most productive yardage totals came in the season's first two games, a win over Toledo and a loss at Miami. Driskel came under fire from fans after throwing a pair of costly interceptions in the loss to the Hurricanes, a 21-16 loss in which Driskel set career highs for completions (22), attempts (33) and yards (291).

On Tuesday Gators head coach Will Muschamp also praised Driskel's performance early in camp. Redshirt sophomore Skyler Mornhinweg and true freshman Will Grier are working behind Driskel.

"Those guys will continue to split reps and Jeff has certainly distanced himself at this point,'' Muschamp said. "But those guys have done some nice things at times. Jeff’s been through change before, so I think the more times you go through that stuff you kind of can handle it and move forward, the maturity takes over.”

Overall, much of Roper's focus in camp is installing his up-tempo offense and acclimating the players to it through repetition.

Roper is pleased how the players have adjusted to their third offensive coordinator in four seasons.

"They are starting to understand more and more every day,'' Roper said. "Part of the process is you add things to them every day. That is a challenge. But I think they are doing a good job. What we've tried to do is create an offense that is as easy for us to learn for us as possible but still complicated to defend."

Roper expects to gain a better understanding of how where the players are during a weekend scrimmage.

Roper is also working to develop what was called the H-back position in former offensive coordinator Brent Pease's pro-style attack.

In Roper's offense, the hybrid tight end/fullback spot is called the "B" position.

Clay Burton, Tevin Westbrook, Gideon Ajagbe, Hunter Joyer and DeAndre Goolsby are players in the mix. Roper wants the position to be a key part of the Gators' attack.

"Who's the guy who is going to be the best in that situation?'' Roper asked rhetorically. "It's a fun battle to watch, all the guys we are repping at that position. I think we have some talent there, some experience there, some speed there. It just has to keep growing.

"It's so different from what they were doing in the past."

Receiver Ahmad Fulwood is one of the players Roper could use to pick up the offense quickly. Fulwood began to make strides in the second half of his freshman season a year ago and has the ability to be a downfield receiver.

Fulwood said the transition phase has been smooth so far as Roper works over every fine detail.

"Coach Roper, he’s going to be on you about the little things,” Fulwood said. “When he talks to us, and when we do team meetings, he’s always about technique and the very, very little things — even tucking in our shirts at practice.

"It makes a big difference.”

Also different — the depth Florida has at receiver.

Fulwood was one of five receivers signed in the 2013 recruiting class and redshirt senior Quinton Dunbar anchors the group. Roper's offense is known for producing 1,000-yard receivers.

“We’re hoping to contribute a whole bunch,” Fulwood said. “It’s a very big gap from what we did last year. We had three main receivers last year. This year we got to have a lot more because it’s a fast offense and we’re always running.

"You’ve got to have those guys to back you up, and how we feel about the second and third guys, there’s not a big drop off.”

Roper's task this spring is to find the right pieces of the puzzle. That takes time. But at least he likes the ones he has to work with.

"We've got talent,'' Roper said.


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