Kurt Roper is the reason for the optimism, leaving Duke to build an up-tempo, spread offense in Gainesville. There’s no question his impact has been felt by the Florida offense, but in the mind of Will Muschamp, the biggest key for an offensive breakout is simple.
The Gators are more talented at every offensive position.
“That’s number one,” Muschamp said. “We could line up and run the run-and-shoot for all I care. We're more talented. We are more talented at running back then we've been. We're more talented at receiver, we're more talented at tight end, we're better up front and we're better at the quarterback position. It starts with talent.”
Roper’s impact was obvious from the first day of spring practice. He’s vocal and easy to spot on the practice field. Most of his time is spent with the quarterbacks, the position he coaches, but he spends time all over the field with the other offensive position groups, too.
In meetings, his energy is contagious. For an offense that openly lost confidence in what it was doing last season, Muschamp had to find an offensive coordinator that could sell his scheme and make the rest of the players believe in what they are doing.
“Players are a reflection of their coach,” Muschamp said. “Kurt is a very upbeat, positive guy. He's got a little edge about him. I think you see a certain carry-over in our offensive football team. I don't think there is any question about that. He’s been a very positive addition.
“It starts with talent, and I think we’re more talented than we’ve been. But Kurt’s got an edge about him that I really like.”
Last year’s frustrations are still in the mind of this year’s team. Even with the 4-8 record buried and the players not wanting to talk about it, the memory is still there, pushing them to work this season. That’s why the hire of Roper was so important. His confidence has been important to what the Gators are doing on the offensive side of the ball.
That has produced a closer team than last year. When the 2013 season went in the tank and the losing streak started, the locker room was in shambles. Camaraderie needed to be rebuilt, and summer workouts and fall camp proved to the coaches that it has happened.
"Any time you go through a tough time in your life you reflect, you get humble, you work hard, you pull together and you understand the people around you are close to you,” Muschamp said. “Within that locker room, I've seen a close-knit unit. They know how to practice the right way. They know how to compete and get after each other but also take care of each other.
“It's been really a lot of fun in training camp. I really enjoyed being around the guys and you could see the camaraderie and the togetherness in this football team. I'm looking forward to see them go and compete in front of our fans."?
INJURY REPORT: Florida heads into game week with only one injury. Safety Marcus Maye (hamstring) could return to practice on Wednesday, but he is the only player in jeopardy to miss the game because of injury.
SECONDARY DEPTH CHART: The depth chart hasn’t been finalized in the secondary, but the Gators are now up to four starters. In a traditional set with two cornerbacks and two safeties, Vernon Hargreaves III and Brian Poole would serve as the cornerbacks with Jabari Gorman and Keanu Neal serving as the team’s safeties.
If the Gators are in the nickel, Poole could slide inside to play the nickel. Nick Washington could also fill the role.
Behind them, the freshmen will get reps on Saturday against Idaho. J.C. Jackson, Jalen Tabor and Quincy Wilson will all play on special teams, and Muschamp said their play this week during practice will determine how much each sees at cornerback during the game. Duke Dawson, Marcell Harris and Washington will also play on special teams and their practices this week will determine their time on the field at safety.
RETURNERS: Andre Debose will start the season as the team’s kickoff returner. He needs one more kickoff return for a touchdown to set the SEC record. Debose is also set to start as the punter returner, but Hargreaves and Demarcus Robinson could also get time returning punts on Saturday.