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'Train your eyes to see' Coaching quarterbacks with Kurt Roper

The clinic setting can be funny at times. While Oklahoma State defensive coordinator takes to the podium to gig offensive coaches, Florida offensive coordinator Kurt Roper uses his turn to gig back. "Defensive guys say the offense has all the advantages," Roper says, "Who can move as many guys at the snap as they want? Who gets to line up in whatever formation they want? I'm not seeing any advantages for the offense there."

The son of a coach, Roper is an offensive guy through and through. You would be, too, if your formative years in the coaching business were spent working under David Cutcliffe and with Peyton Manning. After playing quarterback and defensive back at Rice, the Sherman, Texas native (despite what his bio may tell you, Roper insisted, he's a native Texan), Roper worked as a GA at Tennessee from 1996-98, then followed Cutcliffe to Ole Miss where he served as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. 

Following the inexplicable ouster of Cutcliffe and staff after the 2004 season, Cutcliffe and Roper separated for a year. Cutcliffe spent the 2005 season as the assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach at Notre Dame, while Roper coached quarterbacks at Kentucky. The pair reunited in Knoxville in 2006, Cutcliffe as offensive coordinator and coaching quarterbacks, Roper as running backs coach. Roper then followed Cutcliffe to Duke, where he helped engineer one of the most impressive turnarounds in recent college football history, helping take the Devils on a worst-to-first rise to the ACC title game. Rumor has it that Drake's "Started From the Bottom" was inspired by the the last half-dozen seasons of Duke football. 

Roper has now branched out beyond Cutcliffe's tree, serving in his first year as Florida's offensive coordinator. Clad in a striped orange Florida coaching shirt, Roper addressed a couple hundred coaches at the Angelo Football Clinic on Thursday morning.

A few notes from Roper's 80 minutes on the podium. 

- Everything Roper does on the practice field is at game speed. Warm up drills are done at game speed. Once practice moves into a team setting, Roper drops fundamental work and focuses solely on the situation at hand. At that point, he says, it's about helping his quarterbacks make the right read and not correcting their footwork.

- Roper illustrated a drill where his quarterbacks scan the field, tuck it and run and then make a cut right or left. He then showed a clip of this play, where Duke quarterback Anthony Boone perfectly mirrored the drill during live action:

- One of Roper's best drills to train his players on the proper drop back technique is to have his players straddle the yard line, reverse out, and take his first step with his foot perpendicular to the yard line, so each foot is then pointing toward the sideline during normal game action. The optimum way to step back, Roper said, is to take your first step with your foot parallel to the yard line, so your foot is then pointing in the direction you are dropping. Most players can not do this, though, so Roper doesn't teach it this way. Roper said he's only coached two players that can: Peyton and Eli Manning. Those guys are going to be pretty darn good some day.

- Two key Roper catchphrases: "Train your eyes to see" - to see through the traffic and clutter around the pocket - and "train your hands to see" - to grip the ball without taking your eyes off the defense. 

- In keeping with the theme of coaches who are not sticklers for technique, Roper is agnostic on whether or not a quarterback should grip the laces to throw the ball. He said that a quarterback's middle finger and thumb should rest on opposite points of the ball.

- To train a quarterback's eyes to see, Roper does drills to create havoc in the pocket. "The more you strain their feet, the better they'll get."

- Two points on throwing the football. First, Roper believes throwing a ball is an upper-body movement. "I don't want them using the lower body in their trowing motion," he said. Second, he believes we're either born with the ability to throw a football or we're not. Roper said he'll know in two years if his son Luke, age three, has that ability.

- Roper changed his preferred stance under center after this play, which cost Ole Miss its first and only chance at the SEC Championship Game. The quarterback now keeps his drop foot a little further back now, so as to avoid situations like this: