Muschamp believes in offense coordinator once fired with him
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) Just like South Carolina had faith that Will Muschamp was a better coach than his record at Florida showed, Muschamp believes Kurt Roper can run the Gamecocks offense better than the year they spent together at Florida.
Muschamp and Roper worked together in 2014, the year the Gators fired Muschamp and his staff. While Muschamp's defensive credentials were never questioned - each of his defenses finished in the top five in the Southeastern Conference, his four years at Florida were defined by an offense at the bottom of the Southeastern Conference. The Gators never finished better than two spots above last place.
Muschamp has promised South Carolina fans nervous after the team's first losing season since 2003 that he learned from that imbalance. He said he would make sure he surrounded himself with the best assistants. And Roper did run the best offense during Muschamp's years with the Gators, gaining better than 30 yards a game more than any other Gators team.
''I saw him come into a somewhat difficult situation in our last year at Florida and really managed the situation exceptionally well,'' Muschamp said.
While Roper is co-offensive coordinator along with former Georgia wide receivers coach Bryan McClendon, the guy who spent the last year as a senior offensive assistant coach for the Cleveland Browns will call the plays.
Muschamp said he expects Roper to follow his desire for a balanced attack.
''We're going to play fast we're going to play physical and we're going to be balanced. You can't be one dimensional in this league and win,'' he said.
But the details of how to put that in place, the game plan from week to week and what goes on when South Carolina has the ball will all be with Roper and the offensive assistants, Muschamp said.
''I appreciate his trust in me,'' Roper said.
Roper said he hasn't figured out the exact details of the offense he wants to install because the coaches have been concentrating on recruiting since being hired. He said every position is open and everyone will start with a clean slate before spring practice begins.
Roper is especially interested in improving South Carolina's passing, which average 208 yards a game and finished ninth in the SEC. The focus on recruiting has helped. After Muschamp was hired, the Gamecocks kept highly regarded quarterback Brandon McIlwain out of Pennsylvania and got all-state receiver Bryan Edwards of Conway to restore his commitment to come to the school.
But South Carolina still has to replace its top two receivers and top rusher from 2014.
''We've got to be a competent passing team to be able to win a football game,'' Roper said.
Most of Roper's nearly two decades coaching have been with current Duke coach David Cutcliffe. Duke was 10th in offense in a 12 team league in Roper's first season in 2008, rising to fourth in 2013. The Blue Devils won a division title in the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2013. Led the league in passing in 2009 and finishing second in passing in 2010 and 2011.
Muschamp said he first noticed Roper as quarterbacks coach at Mississippi where he helped Cutcliffe develop New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning. He said he hit it off well with Roper back then and Roper said their friendship grew during the turbulent 2014 season where Muschamp was told he would be fired at the end of the season with two games left.
''I learned a lot of football in the year we were together,'' Roper said. ''In return, I hope he learned a lot of football from me.''