With no head coaching changes (so far) in the SEC, the most-watched open position in college football's most-watched conference has been Florida's offensive coordinator. After the way 2013 ended in Gainesville, there's no debating that Will Muschamp needs this hire to be a hit. It doesn't necessarily have to be a home run, but it at least needs to be a stand-up triple.
Word broke late on Christmas Eve from multiple outlets that Muschamp has tabbed Duke offensive coordinator Kurt Roper to take the reins of the Florida offense. And Roper appears to be the ideal candidate for the job.
A long-time David Cutcliffe lieutenant, Roper has been Duke's assistant head coach, offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach since 2008. After helping Duke break a 17-year bowl drought in 2012, Roper turned in his finest season yet this fall. The Blue Devils jumped from 83rd to 61st nationally in yards per play while replacing senior quarterback Sean Renfree and juggling a rotation of junior quarterbacks Anthony Boone and Brandon Connette. The Blue Devils have set single-season scoring records in back-to-back seasons. Roper helped Duke to its first 10-win season and its first appearance in the ACC Championship; the Blue Devils will meet Texas A&M on New Year's Eve in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. For his efforts, Roper was named a finalist for the Broyles Award.
Prior to his arrival in Durham, Roper coached running backs under Cutcliffe at Tennessee in 2006-07, and also worked as Cutcliffe's quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator at Ole Miss from 1999-04. A 1995 Rice graduate, Roper broke into coaching as a graduate assistant at Tennessee in 1996.
Coupled with a one-year respite coaching quarterbacks at Kentucky in 2005, this will be Roper's second job coaching for anyone other than Cutcliffe.
At Florida, Roper will be tasked with getting a stagnant offense up to speed in an evolving conference. The 4-8 Gators ranked 11th or lower in the SEC in scoring offense, rushing offense, yards per carry, passing offense, passing efficiency, yards per attempt, total offense, yards per play, red zone offense, plays of 10-plus yards and first downs. He's got his work cut out for him.
With Roper's hiring, Florida will adapt to a spread offense with more up tempo elements, mirroring a rapidly-evolving SEC, according to a report from ESPN. The announcement should come later this week.