OC Roper will leave Duke after bowl game

Duke offensive coordinator Kurt Roper is headed for the same job at Florida, but he has one game left to call for the Blue Devils.

Roper will coach in the Chick-fil-A Bowl against Texas A&M next week, a little preview of what he will face once he moves on to SEC. Both he and Duke head coach David Cutcliffe said during a conference call Thursday that their complete attention is on the Aggies -- so much so that Cutcliffe headed off any questions about what he will do to replace Roper before anybody could ask.

Cutcliffe said he has not given any thought about his staff this week, nor is he taking any phone calls or text messages inquiring about the open position. "I will not address any of that until I get back to Durham," he said.

What Cutcliffe does next will be interesting to watch. Roper has been with him just about every step of the way, at coaching stops in Tennessee, Ole Miss and Duke. Roper has served as his offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach at Duke since 2008 and did an excellent job developing players like Thad Lewis (now starting for the Buffalo Bills) and Sean Renfree (among the ACC all-time leaders in passing yards, completions and completion percentage).

This past season, Roper made a two-quarterback system with Anthony Boone and Brandon Connette really work to the Blue Devils' advantage, a huge reason why Duke won 10 games and made the ACC title game. His credentials as a coordinator, and the way he has developed quarterbacks specifically, made him an appealing choice for Florida, a team that has had mediocrity at the position since Tim Tebow left. Roper said it was the right time to leave and the right situation to join, giving him an opportunity to essentially be on his own without Cutcliffe to guide him.

The question now is whether Cutcliffe will turn to somebody he has helped bring up through the coaching ranks, a coach he already has a solid working relationship with and knows well. Scottie Montgomery already serves as offensive coordinator/passing game and receivers coach and spent time as a Duke assistant under Cutcliffe in 2008-09 before rejoining the staff this past season. He seems like a natural fit to move into the position.

But more than finding a coordinator, Cutcliffe also needs to find a quarterbacks coach skilled enough to continue to allow Boone and Connette to function seamlessly in the offense while bringing along the young, talented guys behind them.

A big decision awaits.

Two more notes from the call Cutcliffe held with reporters:

  • Connette has decided to play in the bowl game after spending the last week in California at his mother's bedside following emergency brain surgery. Boone ended up packing up Connette's belongings and bringing them with him to Atlanta just in case Connette decided to rejoin his teammates.

  • With running back Jela Duncan serving an academic suspension, Cutcliffe said Shaquille Powell will start the bowl game.