It seems as if ever since Coach Steve Spurrier left the building, the intensity in downtown Columbia keeps getting stronger and stronger. Starting with the welcome retention of Coach Shawn Elliot, the energy of the coaching staff has increased, and the the laid-back style of Coach Spurrier has been replaced with the in-your-face and passionate stylings of Coach Will Muschamp. Even after a disastrous 3-9 (1-7) campaign, there is still a high level of optimism among fans for the upcoming season. With the arrival of Brandon McIlwain, already being tabbed by some as the savior of the program, mirages of those not-so-long-gone 11-2 seasons seem within our grasp.
But let's slow that down.
Even with the rejuvenation that our recruiting program has undergone, we are still in the rebuilding process. That being said, an under the radar addition to the team could be what causes us to have a relatively successful (or unsuccessful) 2016 campaign.
Ladies and gentleman, without further ado, I present to you an in-depth look at our new offensive shot caller, Kurt Roper. Looking back at tape of Coach Roper's game plan from his time at Duke (2008-13) and Florida (2014), I've gotten several quick impressions.
Coach Roper loves to pound the ball between the tackles with a physical runner early in the game, wearing down opponents. He runs a little up-tempo and continuously runs right behind either a pulling center or guard. This kind of running style would be perfect for David Williams and his 216-pound frame. After several inside zone looks from the pistol and shotgun, he diversifies his run game, similarly to OC Mike Shula of the Carolina Panthers. He starts running traps, counters, and outside stretch runs, pulling guards and centers regularly. With an athletic line, this could be a great running game, but at this point I don't know how our offensive line can hold up to this sort of attack. If they can, then look for a 1,000 yard season out of D-Will.
This is where Coach Roper really opens up the game plan. With the bevy of inside runs and then more diverse runs schemes, defenses start to cheat up and put six, seven, or even eight guys in the box. This causes defenders to have to play man to man with almost no safety help. With a quick and well-executed play fake, you have the linebackers cheating up a step or two, maybe even freezing a corner or safety for a split second. This allows a receiver to get wide open down the field (Bryan Edwards?) and gives you the TE drag route right behind the linebackers. This gives the quarterback several reads to choose from as well as the RB releasing into the flat.
With the offense clicking on all cylinders between the run and the play-action pass, Coach Roper starts to throw in some read option looks, coupled with even more inside runs and a solid amount of passes to the flat/intermediate level of the field. This allows his QB to get comfortable and confident with the game plan set before him. Once things are in the right rhythm, Roper starts to speed the offense up, and gives his QB more and more complex pass schemes and shots down the field. This gets the defense on edge, not really knowing what to expect. If this all goes to plan as it has in the past, the offense should have this one well in hand.
After seeing the template Coach Roper has his offense built around, I looked at the personnel he worked with. At Duke in 2013, he had Anthony Boone (who was a good passer but not all that athletic) and Brandon Connette (a good power runner for short yardage situations) operate at the QB position. He also changed his approach when Jeff Driskel went down halfway through the 2014 season at Florida, putting in a series of QB draws and basic pass concepts to get the inexperienced and athletic quarterback Treon Harris in position to win a game. This gives me some relief over the McIlwain/Bentley situation, as Roper's game plan can incorporate both of them and maximize their strengths. He also rotates running backs in and out a lot, which helps rest guys and keep their legs fresh. With a lot of unprovens behind David Williams, this could give some of the younger guys good game experience and show us what kind of potential this position group, thought of as a weakness by some, possesses.
After an analytical view of how Roper runs his offense, let's take a look at the results:
|Year||School||PPG (National Rank)||YPG (National Rank||Team's Record|
|2008||Duke||19.1 (102)||298.4 (105)||4-8|
|2009||Duke||23.7 (77)||356.6 (70)||5-7|
|2010||Duke||23.8 (80)||369.7 (66)||3-9|
|2011||Duke||22.6 (90)||365.1 (76)||3-9|
|2012||Duke||29.7 (55)||409.2 (53)||6-7|
|2013||Duke||31.8 (30)||421.4 (50)||10-3|
|2014||Florida||28.3 (60)||361.9 (97)||
Although none of these numbers are eyepopping, the level of talent at Duke is different than the level of talent we have here at USC. If he can develop Brandon McIlwain into the elite QB he has the potential to be, then our offense should be top 30 in the country. If he can coax a 3,400 passing yards out of Anthony Boone/Brandon Connette combined, imagine what he can do with a Bentley and McIlwain combo. Things are looking good in Columbia, SC.
Overall, I think that Coach Roper could help take this offense to another level. I am extremely optimistic about what he brings to the table, and I love his experience both in college, but also in the NFL (Browns offensive assistant, 2015). This could be a surprising year for us, and I'm looking forward to it. So let's give a warm welcome to Muschamp and Roper as they open up their first season in Gamecock Country with Vanderbilt on September 1st.
Thank you for reading and Spurs Up!