'Train your eyes to see' Coaching quarterbacks with Kurt Roper

The clinic setting can be funny at times. While Oklahoma State defensive coordinator takes to the podium to gig offensive coaches, Florida offensive coordinator Kurt Roper uses his turn to gig back. "Defensive guys say the offense has all the advantages," Roper says, "Who can move as many guys at the snap as they want? Who gets to line up in whatever formation they want? I'm not seeing any advantages for the offense there."

The son of a coach, Roper is an offensive guy through and through. You would be, too, if your formative years in the coaching business were spent working under David Cutcliffe and with Peyton Manning. After playing quarterback and defensive back at Rice, the Sherman, Texas native (despite what his bio may tell you, Roper insisted, he's a native Texan), Roper worked as a GA at Tennessee from 1996-98, then followed Cutcliffe to Ole Miss where he served as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. 

Following the inexplicable ouster of Cutcliffe and staff after the 2004 season, Cutcliffe and Roper separated for a year. Cutcliffe spent the 2005 season as the assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach at Notre Dame, while Roper coached quarterbacks at Kentucky. The pair reunited in Knoxville in 2006, Cutcliffe as offensive coordinator and coaching quarterbacks, Roper as running backs coach. Roper then followed Cutcliffe to Duke, where he helped engineer one of the most impressive turnarounds in recent college football history, helping take the Devils on a worst-to-first rise to the ACC title game. Rumor has it that Drake's "Started From the Bottom" was inspired by the the last half-dozen seasons of Duke football. 

Roper has now branched out beyond Cutcliffe's tree, serving in his first year as Florida's offensive coordinator. Clad in a striped orange Florida coaching shirt, Roper addressed a couple hundred coaches at the Angelo Football Clinic on Thursday morning.

A few notes from Roper's 80 minutes on the podium. 

- Everything Roper does on the practice field is at game speed. Warm up drills are done at game speed. Once practice moves into a team setting, Roper drops fundamental work and focuses solely on the situation at hand. At that point, he says, it's about helping his quarterbacks make the right read and not correcting their footwork.

- Roper illustrated a drill where his quarterbacks scan the field, tuck it and run and then make a cut right or left. He then showed a clip of this play, where Duke quarterback Anthony Boone perfectly mirrored the drill during live action:

- One of Roper's best drills to train his players on the proper drop back technique is to have his players straddle the yard line, reverse out, and take his first step with his foot perpendicular to the yard line, so each foot is then pointing toward the sideline during normal game action. The optimum way to step back, Roper said, is to take your first step with your foot parallel to the yard line, so your foot is then pointing in the direction you are dropping. Most players can not do this, though, so Roper doesn't teach it this way. Roper said he's only coached two players that can: Peyton and Eli Manning. Those guys are going to be pretty darn good some day.

- Two key Roper catchphrases: "Train your eyes to see" - to see through the traffic and clutter around the pocket - and "train your hands to see" - to grip the ball without taking your eyes off the defense. 

- In keeping with the theme of coaches who are not sticklers for technique, Roper is agnostic on whether or not a quarterback should grip the laces to throw the ball. He said that a quarterback's middle finger and thumb should rest on opposite points of the ball.

- To train a quarterback's eyes to see, Roper does drills to create havoc in the pocket. "The more you strain their feet, the better they'll get."

- Two points on throwing the football. First, Roper believes throwing a ball is an upper-body movement. "I don't want them using the lower body in their trowing motion," he said. Second, he believes we're either born with the ability to throw a football or we're not. Roper said he'll know in two years if his son Luke, age three, has that ability.

- Roper changed his preferred stance under center after this play, which cost Ole Miss its first and only chance at the SEC Championship Game. The quarterback now keeps his drop foot a little further back now, so as to avoid situations like this:

'I try to scare players away when I recruit them'

Back in 2004 the top overall prospect in the country was a stud running back by the name of Adrian Peterson. Yes, that one.

Nearly every recruiter in the country was drooling over the skill set and immediate spark that he could bring to their program. Except for one. Oklahoma running backs coach Cale Gundy had a slightly different approach, and we all know how that worked out for the Sooners.

“I really almost try to scare players away when I recruit running backs.” Gundy told The Oklahoman when it comes to recruiting his position guys. He went as far as to tell Peterson a decade ago that "we'll win with or without you."

Pretty gutsy move, but Gundy knew exactly what he was doing.

The byproduct (or perhaps the direct intended result) of Gundy's strategy is that he's getting guys that want to play for the Sooners, beyond the shadow of a doubt. They want to suit up in the crimson and cream so bad that nothing you could throw at them is going to scare them away...no matter how hard you try. 

“When I watch film and I find my running backs that I know have the talent to play here, that’s just half of it." Gundy shared. "Then you’ve gotta find the character. Then you’ve gotta find out if he’s the fit you want at Oklahoma.”

“But at the end of the day, at the end of their career, five years from now, 10 years from now, they’ll realize it was the best decision of their life.”

While it may not be the right approach for every coach, or prospect, it's certainly an interesting strategy to keep in mind as you make your recruiting calls and chase after the top guys on your board for the 2015 class. If it helps you land your own version of Adrian Peterson, isn't it worth a shot?

Read the full piece here.

Video: Oregon wants you to 'Join the Force'

It's late June, which means programs around the country are making their final push for people to eat up the remaining tickets. Auburn came up with an interesting strategy, Wyoming has a very sharp, impressive video to pitch, and Oregon never disappoints with their graphics / video prowess. It's that time of year for these things and we always want to share the best stuff out there with you.

Back to Oregon though. First, this image designed to be desktop wallpaper circulated around Twitter yesterday, and immediately impressed me and numerous other viewers.

Then Oregon released this video, urging viewers to "Join the Force". The way they package it with the artwork above and the video makes me want to jump on board, especially if you're a Storm Trooper fan.

"This fall, don't just watch it. Feel it. Hear it. Scream it. Live it. Be a part of it. JOIN THE FORCE."

Auburn's video pitch to sell tickets: Moments you won't want to miss

Auburn's strategy to get you to buy tickets for this upcoming season is absolutely brilliant, but it isn't something that they'll (likely) be able to do year after year. But what they have done is found a way to capitalize on the moments and the momentum that came with their 2013 season.

As a reminder that tickets are still available, the athletic department has released videos like the one below. By highlighting the special, once in a lifetime type moments that defined their 2013 season and catapulted them to the national title game, they almost guilt trip you into wanting to be there to experience every moment yourself.

Those of you out there that have been unlucky enough to end up missing one of the most iconic games in your favorite teams history, only to have to hear about it from friends or family for years to come, know exactly what I'm talking about. For me it was the 2011 MSU vs. Wisconsin "Hail Mary" finish, and the 2001 MSU vs. Michigan "1 second" game. Take it from me...you don't want to be that guy.

Excellent strategy that is sure to strike a chord with Auburn fans everywhere...especially those that missed moments like this one.

Why were nine FBS head coaches in Layton, Utah this weekend?

Layton, Utah, lies off the eastern coast of Great Salt Lake, 25 miles up Interstate 15 from Salt Lake City. Not exactly the epicenter of the college football universe by any stretch of the imagination. 

Yet this suburb of nearly 70,000 drew the likes of Bob Stoops,

Steve Sarkisian

Chris Petersen

as well as Colorado head coach Mike MacIntyre, Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl, Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen, and the head coach of each of Utah's three FBS programs - Kyle Whittingham, Bronco Mendenhall and Matt Wells. The Beehive State's FCS programs - Weber State (Jay Hill) and Southern Utah (Ed Lamb) were also represented by their head coaches. 

This weekend was the 15th annual All Poly Camp, a camp that has grown from an enrollment of 30 campers to more than 450. As the number (and quality) of players has risen, so has the number of big-time coaches.

“If you’re a football guy, this is where you want to be,” All Poly Camp founder Alema Te’o told the Deseret News. “End of story.”

Though its name and its website touting Polynesian football success stories may imply otherwise, the camp is open to players from all races and backgrounds. 

“It’s great to come back and be able to be in this environment,” said Andersen, who has attended all 15 camps dating back to his days as a Utah assistant. “I would say as far as the nation goes, if it’s not the best it’s definitely one of the best in the country.”

Rather than just a glorified recruiting combine, the All Poly Camp has evolved beyond just a camp. It's now an event where anyone that plays in or recruits in Utah pitches in and does their part to support football within the state's borders.

“Of course, recruiting is a big part of it, but you’re actually here to just really help kids and give back to the community and do some service,” said BYU defensive line coach Steve Kaufusi. “You’ve got to do it. I’ve got to do my part. I wouldn’t feel good if I don’t do my part.”

Read the full story here.

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