Gators put hopes on new OC and a healthy QB

Ben Cook

August 01, 2014 at 11:52 am.


Having a healthy Jeff Driskel will be big for Florida. (Rob Foldy-USA TODAY Sports)

There are big changes coming at the University of Florida this fall and one Gator is extremely pleased with the changes.

Last season the Gators were not very offensive when it came to offense. They could play defense, but putting points on the scoreboard was difficult. Part of the problem, of course, was the season-ending broken leg suffered by quarterback Jeff Driskel.

Driskel is well this season and that makes Florida’s offense better, but the biggest change is at the offensive coordinator position where former Duke offensive coordinator Kurt Roper is taking over. That has made coach Will Muschamp happy.

“In making that change, I felt like Kurt Roper was a great hire for us from a standpoint of a guy that philosophically is on the same page with me as what we want to be, that’s a balanced offense. Last year at Duke University, he had over 20 rushing touchdowns, over 20 passing touchdowns. That’s the type of balance I think we’ll need in our league. You can’t get one-dimensional in this league or you’re really going to struggle, in my opinion. We’ve been too one-dimensional on offense.

“Really pleased with Kurt; his development at the quarterback position speaks for itself — Eli Manning, Thaddeus Lewis, Sean Renfro, all guys playing in the National Football League, been a play-caller for 11 years.

“When I called Coach Cutcliffe about Kurt, he wasn’t happy I was calling about Kurt, but he certainly endorsed him as a football coach and a man,” Muschamp said. “There’s nothing different of what I’ve seen of what Coach Cutcliffe described to me in their offseason program. In our 15 days of springs, we got a lot more done than I thought we would. He’s an outstanding fundamental football coach. Very positive. It was good to see our offensive kids having fun again on the field. Really excited about that.”

The Gators responded well to Roper’s offensive philosophy during the spring, especially Driskel.

“It’s kind of the polar opposite of what we’ve been used to over the past four years,” said the Florida quarterback. “Before we were kind of putting our focus on time of possession and controlling the ball and that really helped us in 2012; we limited turnovers and played great defense. But I think the game is moving toward having to score points and trying to get as many plays in as possible, which is Coach Roper’s mindset.

“He’s a positive coach and puts players in positions to be successful so we’re lucky to have Coach Roper and we’re excited to get going in camp.”

Muschamp is excited about getting started himself.

“Probably what excites me the most is that this is probably the most talent we’ve had on offense in my four years at Florida. [It] starts with our quarterback Jeff Driskel. He graduated this past spring, going to go into sports management here in the fall after finishing up an internship this summer,” he said.

“I think this offense fits him better as opposed to what we may have been doing before. He was recruited to Florida to be a gun quarterback. To utilize his athleticism and space, some of the things he’s able to do athletically is going to benefit him and us.

“I went back and looked at our numbers from 2012 when we were in the shotgun as opposed to being under center. When Jeff was in the shotgun our yards were better, our explosive plays were better in both the run and pass game,” Muschamp said.

Playing quarterback in the Southeastern Conference can be hazardous to your health so Muschamp is not going to be caught shorthanded again in case Driskel goes down.

“We need to develop a backup behind him. I don’t know who that would be right now,” Muschamp said. “But I would plan on playing that person early in the season, talking about the first game, just like we did with Jeff his freshman year when John Brantley was our quarterback because of the lack of experience behind Jeff. We need to develop that guy and be ready for a situation where we might have to play him.”

Muschamp and all Florida fans are hoping that scenario does not play out again in 2014.