Florida announces hire of Duke's Roper as OC

GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Florida is turning to Duke's Kurt Roper to improve the Southeastern Conference's worst offense.

Coach Will Muschamp is counting on Roper's previous success in the league and his experience with an up-tempo scheme to get it done.

Muschamp announced Roper's hire Thursday, three days after he agreed to take the job.

"He has a diverse, up-tempo background on offense and does a good job of adapting to what the players do best," Muschamp said. "The most important thing, though, is he has always remained balanced. He has had success calling plays in the SEC and has tutored three NFL quarterbacks. He has had players produce at every offensive position and he is one of the most well-respected coaches in the country."

Roper is leaving the same position at Duke. He also was an assistant head coach with the Blue Devils.

Roper spent hours interviewing for the job with Muschamp on Monday. He will remain with Duke through the Chick-fil-A Bowl on Tuesday night.

The Gators (4-8) are coming off their first losing season since 1979. Muschamp wants to overhaul the offense after three consecutive years ranked worse than 100th nationally in total yards. Muschamp fired offensive coordinator Brent Pease and offensive line coach Tim Davis less than 24 hours after the season ended.

An 18-year coaching veteran, Roper spent six seasons as Duke's offensive coordinator. He has 14 years of experience coaching quarterbacks, including working with NFL quarterbacks Eli Manning (N.Y. Giants), Sean Renfree (Atlanta Falcons) and Thaddeus Lewis (Buffalo Bills).

Muschamp's next offensive coordinator had been considered the most important hire in his tenure, a choice that surely will impact whether the head coach sticks around beyond 2014.

If Florida doesn't show significant improvement in Muschamp's fourth year --  he is 22-16 through three seasons -- athletic director Jeremy Foley almost certainly will clean house.

Roper followed coach David Cutcliffe to Duke in 2008 from Tennessee and helped rebuild the Blue Devils from one of the nation's worst power-conference programs to the champions of the Atlantic Coast Conference's Coastal Division.

Roper was a finalist this year for the Broyles Award, given to the nation's top assistant coach. The offensive coordinator helped the 22nd-ranked Blue Devils (10-3) set a school record for wins.

Before joining Duke, Roper coached at three SEC schools -- Tennessee (2006-07), Kentucky (2005) and Mississippi with Cutcliffe (1999-2004). So he has extensive SEC experience, having coached quarterbacks at Kentucky and Ole Miss, and running backs at Tennessee before arriving in Durham, N.C. In addition to his role as offensive coordinator, he has served as assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach at Duke.

Florida believes a better offense is key to turning thing around.

The Gators were devastated by injuries in 2013, losing quarterback Jeff Driskel, running back Matt Jones, receiver Andre Debose and three offensive linemen during the season. They managed just 279 yards in a 26-20 loss to lower-division Georgia Southern on Nov. 23 and then 193 in a season-ending 37-7 loss to Florida State a week later.

Florida lost its final seven games and missed a bowl game for the first time since 1990. The Gators threw just four touchdown passes during that losing streak.

Over the last two seasons, Duke averaged more than 30 points per game. Duke averaged 408.1 yards and 31.6 points this season, ranking sixth in the ACC in both categories.
 

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