Friday, April 5, 2013

Duke football: Q&A with offensive coordinator Kurt Roper

 Duke football has one more week of spring practice before the April 13 spring game in Wallace Wade at 4 p.m. (open to the public, by the way). In anticipation of that event, I chatted briefly with offensive coordinator Kurt Roper about what's been happening with the offense.

What have you guys been doing on the offensive side of the ball this spring?

The whole cliche on how it's about players and not plays is obviously somewhat true. We're trying to figure out who can really help us on Saturday next year. That's the biggest thing. You have guys like Jamison Crowder, who you know can help you win on Saturday. But is (WR)Max McCaffrey there yet? We've had (OL)Perry Simmons play really good football for a long time, and we know he can help us win, but can we bring somebody along, like Lucas Patrick or Matt Skura, that we can say at the end of Spring that they can help us win? That's really what we've been focusing on. Who else can we develop--is it one player, two players, five players--that are ready for Saturday? And we've done it with several guys.

At the same time, you're trying to figure out what works. What are our guys capable of scheme wise? We're working on different schemes and things like that. We have a different quarterback, plain and simple. The guy is different, let's figure out what his strengths are going to be and how to implement it and use it to, again, win on Saturday.

Which young guys have shown a lot of promise?

Max McCraffrey is game-ready. He's had an outstanding spring. And that needed to be a huge area of development for us, losing the guys that we lost. With Issac (Blakeney) playing in the slot and Eric (Schneider) playing in the slot, those guys are close. They've had good springs and could be guys that are capable of making plays for us on Saturday.

Replacing (center) Brian Moore has been a nervous area for me. Matt Skura has done an outstanding job. He's a guy that I'm going to like as the center, especially has he grows and grows and grows.

Those are guys that can say right now on Saturday, 'hey, I'm ready to go play.' Shaq Powell kind of fits in that same category. He was really kind of there last year, for the most part. But he's a guy that can go play for us on Saturday right now.

I know the coaching staff talked about getting Shaq reps at safety last year for the bowl game. Was there any thought about him staying on defense?

Well, Coach Cut makes all the personnel decisions. I wasn't in favor of that (laughs). Shaq has a chance to be an outstanding running back. Obviously, we all get selfish in our areas of responsibility.

That's only natural. How has Anthony Boone looked this spring at quarterback, and how has the transition from backup to starter gone?

It's going well. It's a continuous work, it's a continuous evolvement in becoming a starting quarterback. I told him that the biggest thing is you have to act like it, you have to walk like it, you have to talk like it and present yourself as the starting quarterback. He is wearing that hat right now. Work ethic and everything that goes into being a starting quarterback, everybody notices. He understands the responsibility, and he's doing that end of it well. The first part is carrying yourself like that starting quarterback, and he has tried to do that.

The second thing is that he's a charismatic guy. He really has a charisma about him that says starting quarterback. That's helped him carry himself that way. He's got a lot natural leadership skills and personality skills, and people just kind of gravitate toward his personality.

In the end, it's still about being productive on the field. He's understanding what we're doing, he's trying to play faster, he's trying to be a smart decision maker but still be aggressive and trying to make plays. He can all be good decision makers with the football and never turn it over if we go out there and take knees, things like that. He's got to be aggressive with opportunities when they arise. And you've got to know when to be aggressive and when not to be aggressive, and he's growing in that area.

He's playing well. The true test will come next year, but the best part is we've already seen it on Saturday. He's been put into those roles a little bit, and I'm excited about watching him play.

We haven't seen backup quarterback Thomas Sirk in game action. How has he looked this spring, and do you think he will get a few situational reps, like Anthony did under Sean Renfree?

He's not quite as far along as Anthony, obviously, just because he hasn't been here as long. But he is a guy that's physically talented, he's really big, he's strong, he can run, he is accurate with the football for the most part. But he's still taking small steps right now. He's really just trying to learn step one. There are steps in the process of learning an offense.

Step one is just learning our plays, learning our terminology, learning our language. Step two is applying it to defensive schemes and things like that. Step three is applying it to game situations, score of the game, time in the game, down and distance, field position. Right now, we're really kind of on step one, but he's better and coming along. But who knows, if something happens to Anthony and he's got to play, we have to have a package to have him ready to go play.

What I'm trying to say is that he is a really talented quarterback who has a chance to be a really good player here. I hope he still gets to develop before everything is thrust on him.

There's your brief overview of the most pressing offensive questions for Duke this spring. Check back this weekend for more on McCaffrey and Boone, and early next week there will be a similar overview of the defensive side of the ball.

- Laura Keeley

Kurt Roper instructs the Duke offense with quarterback Anthony Boone nearby. (TAKAAKI IWABU)

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ketz said...

He is a guy that's physically talented, he's really big, he's strong, he can run, he is accurate with the football for the most part. But he's still taking small steps right now.

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