Duke offensive coordinator Kurt Roper will leave to take the same position at Florida, a person close to situation confirmed Tuesday. An official announcement is expected this week.
Roper went to Gainesville on Monday to interview with Gators coach Will Muschamp, multiple outlets reported. Less than 24 hours later, it was a done deal. It wasnt immediately known if Roper would coach through Dukes Dec. 31 bowl game against Texas A&M. The Blue Devils coaches and players are on break and will reconvene Wednesday night in Atlanta.
Roper, who didnt return a call for comment, has been the quarterbacks coach on every staff Duke coach David Cutcliffe has put together. The two first worked together in 1996, when Roper was a graduate assistant and Cutcliffe was the offensive coordinator at Tennessee. Roper, a former quarterback and 1995 graduate of Rice, followed Cutcliffe to Mississippi when Cutcliffe was hired as coach following the 1998 season. Roper coached quarterbacks all six years Cutcliffe was with the Rebels and was the passing game coordinator during the final three seasons.
After a year at Kentucky, Roper reunited with Cutcliffe for two more seasons at Tennessee before again following Cutcliffe, this time to Duke in 2008. Roper has served as Dukes offensive coordinator for the past six years. Both of his graduated starting quarterbacks at Duke Thaddeus Lewis and Sean Renfree have gone on to the NFL.
Roper was one of five finalists for the Broyles Award, given annually to the top assistant coach. The Blue Devils won a school-record 10 games this season, averaging 31.6 points per game, thanks to 234.4 passing yards and 173.7 rushing yards per contest. Duke put up these numbers despite a collarbone injury to starting quarterback Anthony Boone, which caused him to miss three games. Both he and backup quarterback Brandon Connette played vital roles in the offense, with Roper rotating them effectively when both are healthy.
Duke ranked 69th nationally in total offense, significantly higher than Florida (4-8), which ranked 115th and hasnt ranked higher than 104th nationally in Muschamps three seasons. The 2013 campaign was Floridas first losing season since 1979. Roper likely wont have long to turn around the Gators anemic offense, as Muschamp was on the hot seat for the majority of the year until Florida athletics director Jeremy Foley announced he would return for 2014 after a 26-20 home loss to Georgia Southern Floridas first loss to a Football Championship Subdivision team.
Cutcliffe, who didnt return a message seeking comment, could assign the title of offensive coordinator to Scottie Montgomery, currently Dukes passing game coordinator and wide receivers coach. Cutcliffe still will need to find a new quarterbacks coach for the first time in his head-coaching career.
Keeley: 919-829-4556; Twitter: @laurakeeley