As we approach the start of the 2014 season, all eyes in the Gator Nation are fixed on Florida's new offensive coordinator, Kurt Roper, as his success this year may ultimately determine the fate of the entire Gators' coaching staff.
In addition to former Florida players reviewing his performance and breaking down his scheme from spring practices and the Orange and Blue Debut (links located at the top), Inside the Gators asked in-house talent evaluator Matt Hamilton, who works at NFL Films breaking down film for use on the show Playbook on NFL Network, to take a closer look at a couple of his most successful plays from last season at Duke that he feels are representative of what sets Roper's offense apart.
Here is what he found:
Anthony Boone's 75-yard pass to Jamison Crowder, 1st QTR vs. NC State (:06 mark into the video)
When thinking about the spread offense, a lot of people think of up-tempo, quick paced passing game, dink and dunk, and drag-dig combos. While those elements are all present in Roper's offense, part of what sets his apart is his penchant for the vertical attack and his use of play-action out of shotgun. You can see instantly on the snap all 11 NC State defenders have their eyes in the backfield because of the play action. As soon as Boone squares, the entire defense has to scramble and retreat. This allows just enough time for Crowder to get behind the defense and Boone to utilize his arm strength to launch it to him for a huge gain. Roper loves to utilize the vertical passing game and, be it out of shotgun or pistol, play action to suck up the linebackers and create space. Though they like to get playmakers in space now and then, this is not just a dink and dunk offense.
Josh Snead's 56-yard run, 4th QTR vs. Miami (1:41 mark into the video)
Roper likes to run out of a lot of different offensive sets. He'll show straight shotgun and pistol, he'll go two-back out of either set, he'll offset his backs, etc… Looking over his body of work, Will Muschamp isn't completely abandoning his offensive philosophy in that what Roper does is present a balanced offense that relies heavily on the run game. On this particular play, Roper has a two-back look, with his tight end acting as a fullback, offset and two yards behind the tackle. He has his halfback offset and two yards behind the quarterback, to create a downhill attack out of the gun. There are a number of elements to this play. First, the slot receiver shows bubble, which forces the defense to widen. While this is not a read play, the defense does not know that and has to respect it. Second, this is a split zone, with the TE/FB blocking back across the formation. This action not only seals the edge to the weak side, but also serves to influence the linebacker, who immediately chases him. With a hat on a hat at the line of scrimmage, the linebackers movement opens an enormous seam for running back Snead, resulting in a huge gain. The variety of looks Roper throws at opposing defenses out of the run game often results in confusion for opposing defenses, as does his use of misdirection, which leads us to the next example.
Anthony Boone's 37-yard pass to Braxton Deaver, 1st QTR vs. Texas A&M (:11 mark into the video)
What you need to remember is that play calling doesn't happen in a bubble. Meaning, that even if a play doesn't result in a big gain, it can still offer valuable feedback to the play caller or set the defense up for a play later in the drive or the game. Roper does a nice job of at setting up plays and using misdirection off of the looks he has given his opponents, either within a game or on tape from previous weeks. In this example, he utilizes the familiar look of the quick screen Duke runs, with a wheel behind it. The flat defender, corner, and safety all bite on the look, leading to a huge gain downfield. Roper loves to give teams the same look to play off of their recognition, preparation, and film study and is extremely aggressive in his play calling when he is successful.
Overall, Roper's aggressive, multifaceted, and balanced spread offense should serve to open up the Gators' offense this year, especially with the return of Jeff Driskel. Expect a lot of zone runs to complement the play action and vertical attack, and plenty of misdirection. In order for this offense to be firing on all cylinders, however, Florida needs another couple of reliable, explosive, players to emerge. If not, it could be a long year and spell the end for the current Gators' regime.
Matt Hamilton was a former student assistant for the quarterbacks at Missouri, coach at the high school level in Connecticut, intern scout for the Detroit Lions and currently works at NFL Films breaking down film for use on the show Playbook on NFL Network.