Kurt Roper will call the offensive plays for South Carolina this season.
That’s not a surprise considering he’s the Gamecocks offensive coordinator and not a change from last season when head coach Will Muschamp was hired and brought in Roper to run his offense. But it’s worth repeating Roper will pull the trigger because of all the talk of Muschamp’s influence on the offense and the increasing input of sophomore quarterback Jake Bentley.
“We are going to be on the same page philosophically, but Kurt calls everything,” Muschamp said. “He runs the offense. As long as we are on the same page about what we want to do and that’s what our players can do. It’s not about what we want to be, it’s about what can our players do.”
What the players can do is an ongoing discussion between Muschamp and the entire offensive staff each season and every week. Once that decision is made, Roper puts together the game plan with Bentley chiming in about which plays and concepts he likes the most.
“He is letting me call the plays that we think are going to work,” Roper explained. “We get together, but I’m asking him before he tells me. If we get into a two-minute drill or a one-minute drill toward the end of the half, I’ll say, ‘How do you want me to approach this?’ Or if we’re getting to a four-minute situation, ‘How do you want me to approach this? Aggressive? Non-aggressive?’ That’s really where his input comes in. As far as play-calling, saying run or pass, he lets me do it.”
South Carolina’s offense finished last in the SEC in scoring (20.8 ppg) and 13th in yards (3437.5 ypg) in Muschamp’s and Roper’s first season. The Gamecocks believe that output will improve for a variety of reasons, chiefly the increased experience and knowledge of Bentley. It’s Bentley’s knowledge of the system that will make it possible for him to make changes to the call at the line of scrimmage, which mostly means choosing between two plays he has been given from the sideline.
The plays are called by Roper, who sits in the press box during games, and relayed onto the field by assistants using hand signals on the sideline.
“I learned this from (Duke head coach) David Cutcliffe a long time ago, the game is too complex now to put (calling the plays) on the quarterback so what you do is help him with parameters,” Roper said. “You will call either-or plays. If we have a pass called that we don’t like versus a certain look, he’s got the ability to change that pass route.”
Bentley also will give Roper his input on the plan between every series.
“Our biggest thing is just executing the play we get,” Bentley said, “but if I see a look or a play that would work, I have that freedom.”
The coaches’ trust in Bentley means they will take his input seriously, Muschamp said. The 6-foot-3, 220-pounder completed 65.8 percent of his passes in seven starts last year, throwing for 1,420 yards, nine touchdowns and four interceptions.
“There is no question we have given him a lot of latitude at the line of scrimmage to get us to the best situation,” Muschamp said. “I think that’s what you will see, more of (Bentley manipulating the play call) at the line of scrimmage as opposed to tempo. We still want to be able to dictate the tempo of the game but to have that luxury at the quarterback position certainly helps.”