A coaching veteran who has mentored a trio of 3,000-yard passers, Kurt Roper joined the Duke program in January of 2008 and serves as Assistant Head Coach and Offensive Coordinator while coaching the Blue Devil quarterbacks.
In 2012, Roper directed the Duke offense to a school single-season record 410 points and 31.5 points per game, marking the fifth-highest total in school history. All-ACC wide receivers Jamison Crowder (76 receptions, 1,074 yards, 8 touchdowns) and Conner Vernon (85-1,074-8) established a conference record for most combined catches while becoming just the second pair in league history to post over 1,000 receiving yards in the same season. In addition, quarterback Sean Renfree threw for over 3,000 yards and finished his career ranked among the ACC’s all-time leaders in passing yardage (7th; 9,465), pass completions (3rd; 898), 300-yard passing games (t4th; 11) and completion percentage (6th; .647).
Renfree went on to be a seventh round pick of the Atlanta Falcons in the 2013 NFL Draft while Vernon signed a free agent contract with the Oakland Raiders.
Under Roper’s guidance in 2011, the Blue Devils ranked second in the ACC in passing offense as wide receiver Vernon became the first player in league history to post multiple seasons with 70-plus receptions. In addition, wideout Donovan Varner eclipsed the school’s all-time catch record while Duke rushed for 19 touchdowns, matching the program’s highest output since 1995.
In 2010, Duke averaged 381.3 yards per game — the program’s highest total since 1989 when the Blue Devils captured the league championship. Renfree became just the fourth player in Duke history to throw for more than 3,000 yards in a season, and Vernon was an All-ACC pick after catching 73 passes. In addition, Brandon Connette set a school record for rushing TDs by a freshman with eight while Duke had five players with 30 or more receptions for just the second time in school history.
In 2008-09, Roper directed two-time All-ACC quarterback Thaddeus Lewis, who finished his career as the school’s all-time leader in pass attempts (1,510), pass completions (877), passing yards (10,065) and passing touchdowns (67). One of just two players in ACC history to throw for more than 10,000 yards in a career, Lewis led the ACC in total offense in 2009 while throwing for 3,330 yards and 20 TDs.
Lewis, who set or matched over 50 school records during his tenure at Duke, earned the first start of his NFL career as a member of the Cleveland Browns in the 2012 regular season finale at Pittsburgh. He now plays for the Detroit Lions.
Also in 2009, Varner ranked first in the league in both receptions per game (5.42) and receiving yards per game (87.2) en route to earning first team all-conference honors.
Roper came to Duke after serving the 2006 and 2007 seasons at Tennessee where he coached the running backs. The Volunteers produced 19 wins in two years with one SEC Eastern Division crown and a pair of Outback Bowl berths.
Tennessee’s rushing attack in 2007 was featured by Arian Foster, who gained 1,193 yards on 245 carries while scoring 12 touchdowns on the ground. Foster went on to lead the NFL in rushing in 2010 and earn invitation to the 2011 Pro Bowl.
Roper got his start in coaching at Tennessee, serving as a graduate assistant coach from 1996-98 while working with the Volunteer defensive and special teams units. He then followed current Duke head coach David Cutcliffe to Ole Miss and spent six years in Oxford as the Rebels went 44-29 with four bowl game victories. Mississippi enjoyed one of its finest seasons in school history in 2003 when the Rebels went 10-3, captured a share of the SEC Western Division title and defeated Oklahoma State, 31-28, in the Cotton Bowl.
While with Ole Miss, Roper coached the quarterbacks all six years and added the responsibility of passing game coordinator for his final three seasons. Among his pupils was record-setting, All-America signal-caller Eli Manning, the 2003 SEC Player of the Year who was the number one overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft.
In 2005, Roper coached the quarterbacks at Kentucky under Rich Brooks.
In all, Roper has coached in 10 bowl games: 1997 Florida Citrus, 1998 Orange, 1998 Independence, 1999 Independence, 2000 Music City, 2002 Independence, 2004 Cotton, 2007 Outback, 2008 Outback and 2012 Belk.
A native of Ames, Iowa, Roper earned three varsity letters on the gridiron as a defensive back and quarterback at Rice before graduating in 1995. He went on to earn a master’s degree from Tennessee in 1998.
Roper is married to the former Britt Albertson of High Point, N.C., and the couple has one daughter, Reese, and one son, Luke. His brother, Zac, also is a member of the Duke football coaching staff.
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