Muschamp believes Duke's Roper could help Gators' offense, source says

Dec. 23, 2013 @ 11:01 PM

DURHAM – Florida is interested in Duke assistant head coach/offensive coordinator Kurt Roper possibly being its new offensive coordinator.

Roper, on the Blue Devils staff since David Cutcliffe arrived as head coach for the 2008 season, was in Florida on Monday interviewing with Gators head coach Will Muschamp about the position, a source close to Roper confirmed.

Florida has been in the market for an offensive coordinator since Brent Pease was fired on Dec. 1 after the Gators struggled to a 4-8 season, their first losing season since 1979. The embattled Muschamp also fired offensive line coach Tim Davis.

With Duke having won a school-record 10 games while averaging 31.6 points per game, Roper is a hot name among the assistant coaching ranks. Roper was a finalist for the Broyles Award, which goes to the nation’s top assistant coach.

Cutcliffe and Roper have worked together in every season but one since 1996. The two first worked together at Tennessee from 1996-98, when Cutcliffe was the Vols’ offensive coordinator and Roper was a graduate assistant coach.

When Cutcliffe became head coach at Mississippi in December 1998, Roper joined him as the Rebels’ quarterbacks coach. He was at Ole Miss for all six of Cutcliffe’s seasons as head coach, adding the title of passing-game coordinator for his final three seasons.

Together, Cutcliffe and Roper helped tutor quarterback Eli Manning, an eventual NFL first-round pick and two-time Super Bowl-winner.

Roper joined Kentucky’s staff as quarterbacks coach in 2005 following Cutcliffe’s dismissal at Ole Miss. In 2006 and 2007, Roper and Cutcliffe were together again as assistant coaches at Tennessee.

Since Cutcliffe came to Durham, Roper has played a key role in the rebuilding of what had been the nation’s worst Football Bowl Subdivision football program at Duke.

At Duke, Roper coached two-time all-ACC quarterback Thaddeus Lewis, now with the NFL’s Buffalo Bills, and Sean Renfree, now with the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons. Lewis set or matched 50 school record while Renfree completed a school-record 67.9 percent of his passes as a senior in 2012.

Muschamp attempted to hire Southern California offensive coordinator Clay Helton, who was the Trojans’ interim head coach for their 45-30 win over Fresno State in Saturday night’s Las Vegas Bowl.

But new USC coach Steve Sarkasian announced Sunday that he was retaining Helton.

Florida’s offense is looking for a serious boost to break out of a three-year slump. The Gators have finished 100th or worse in three consecutive seasons, including 112th this season.

Duke’s players and coaches are off from practice until they arrive in Atlanta Christmas night in preparation for the Chick-fil-A Bowl. The Blue Devils will practice Thursday in Atlanta, where they will play No. 20 Texas A&M at the Georgia Dome on Dec. 31 (8 p.m., ESPN).