Kurt Roper gave up a lot when he left Duke last month to become the Gators' offensive coordinator. He walked away from his longtime mentor, David Cutcliffe. He left behind a brother who is a member of the Duke coaching staff and the comfort of having their children grow up together. All to join a 4-8 team with a coach on the hot seat after UF's first losing season since 1979.
But when Roper met with the media for the first time Monday afternoon, he insisted his big gamble isn't necessarily one after all.
"It's the University of Florida," Roper said. "One of the obvious mainstays in college football. This is a great university with a history and a lot of championships. The year before they went to the Sugar Bowl, so obviously there's a lot of good football players on this team. I think it's a chance to come and compete for championships."
Roper is the third offensive coordinator in coach Will Muschamp's four-year tenure. The offense will have a new look in 2014: an up-tempo style, operating more out of the shotgun than in recent seasons.
Muschamp said it's a natural progression. "Of the 12 games we played, probably eight of them are up-tempo, seven, eight, something like that," he said. "You have to make those adjustments as you continue to move forward because that's really where the game is moving."
Roper said he has done some evaluation of current players, but ultimately his assessments will be made "in the grass." As for his offensive philosophy? Scoring.
"Our whole philosophy on offense is points per game," he said. "It's not yards, it's not going up and down the field, it's how many points we can get."
JONES OUT: Armwood alumnus Matt Jones will miss all of spring practice because the knee injury that ended his season in the Oct. 12 LSU game was more severe than originally expected, Muschamp said. Jones, who had surgery on Oct. 14, is scheduled to have more surgery.
"He had a radial tear of the meniscus, which basically splits the meniscus in half," Muschamp said. "The first surgery we were able to put together about 60 percent of the meniscus. Generally when you have a radial tear one of two things you try and mend the meniscus back where you take it out and create a bone on bone situation, which, for a running back, is not good. In the first operation our orthopedics put 60 percent back, which is very good.
"We're very optimistic about the meniscus being fine. We're going to go back and build the quad back and then we're going to come back in three to four weeks to have a scope to repair the remaining 40 percent and our orthopedics feel very confident that they're going to be able to do so."
INJURY UPDATES: QB Jeff Driskel is expected to participate in spring drills; WR/KR Andre Debose (ACL) will be non-contact this spring; OL Tyler Moore (broken elbow) is scheduled to have another X-ray in two to three weeks to determine when he will be cleared for contact. LBs Matt Rolin (ACL), Alex Anzalone (shoulder) and Jeremi Powell (knee) are all out for the spring.
HELP WANTED: Expect the 15 spring practices to be all-out battles as Muschamp has publicly opened up every position. Yes, including QB. Freshman QB Will Grier is among nine early enrollees and will compete against Driskel and Skyler Mornhinweg. "Every position's open," Muschamp said. "Every position. When you go 4-8 it's all open."
Antonya English can be reached at [email protected]