A member of the Duke staff since January of 2008, Zac Roper serves as the program’s Special Teams Coordinator and Recruiting Coordinator while coaching the tight ends.
The 2014 campaign may have been Roper’s best coaching performance as Duke had four All-America special teams performers. Punt returner Jamison Crowder picked up second team All-America accolades from Lindy’s while kickoff returner DeVon Edwards, punter Will Monday and kicker Ross Martin all were honorable mention choices by Sports Illustrated.
Crowder returned two punts for touchdowns, including the game-winning score at Syracuse, and averaged 12.7 yards per runback. Edwards broke off a 99-yard kickoff return for a score at Pittsburgh and finished the year averaging 25.7 yards per return. Martin set school single-season and career scoring records during the 2014 campaign while extended his school record streak of consecutive PATs to 110. He enters his senior year with 52 career field goals, three shy of the Blue Devil record, after making 19-of-21 attempts in 2014.
Monday was a key part of Duke’s punt unit, which yielded just 33 return yards, or 2.54 yards a game and 2.06 yards per runback. The 2.06 yards a return were tied for the third-best mark nationally. Monday dropped 17 punts inside the 20-yard line and caused 20 fair catches while booting 13 for 50 or more yards.
At tight end, Roper and the Blue Devils overcame the preseason loss of All-ACC performer Braxton Deaver, who suffered a season-ending injury in August. David Reeves led the unit with three touchdown receptions including the game-winning score in Duke’s 20-13 triumph over Virginia.
In 2013 — Roper’s first year directing the Blue Devil tight ends — Duke’s offense featured third team All-ACC choice Deaver at tight end, and Reeves. Deaver finished the year with 46 catches for 600 yards and four touchdowns while Reeves became the first player in Duke history with touchdown receptions in multiple bowl games.
Under Roper’s guidance, Duke boasted a pair of 2013 All-Americans in the return game with both Crowder and Edwards garnering recognition. Crowder averaged 16.0 yards per punt return and posted two returns for touchdowns while Edwards, who returned a pair of kickoffs for scores, averaged 30.2 yards per kickoff return. In addition, Martin and Monday earned All-ACC honors in 2013.
Roper mentored the Blue Devil running backs in each of his first five seasons in Durham. Duke’s rushing attack in 2012 featured three backs — Jela Duncan, Josh Snead and Juwan Thompson — that totaled 1,401 yards while averaging 4.95 yards per carry. The trio also combined for 53 pass receptions for an additional 263 yards.
On the special teams front, Martin and Monday enjoyed successful rookie campaigns as both earned Freshman All-America recognition. Martin set an ACC freshman and school single-season record with 106 total points while Monday led the ACC in punting average.
In 2011, Duke scored 19 times on the ground, matching the program’s top output since 1995. Thompson was one of just six running backs in the ACC to amass 450-plus rushing yards, five or more rushing TDs and 20-plus receptions on the year.
In the three-year span from 2010-12, the Blue Devils recovered an ACC-best eight on-side kicks while ranking among the top four in kickoff coverage all three seasons. In addition, Duke was second in the ACC in punt return average in 2012 and scored two touchdowns.
Under Roper’s direction, kicker Will Snyderwine earned first team All-America honors from the American Football Coaches Association in 2010 after booting a school single-season record 21 field goals along with all 32 of his PAT attempts.
Also in 2010, Duke’s rushing game showed marked improvement by nearly doubling its yardage total from the previous year while rushing for 19 scores.
Snyderwine garnered All-ACC honors in 2009 after making 17 field goals.
In 2008, Roper managed the unexpected loss of returning starting running back Re’quan Boyette by preparing three backs – Clifford Harris, Jay Hollingsworth and Tony Jackson – for action despite the trio combining for a total of 92 career rushing attempts entering the year. The combination rushed for 1,003 yards while catching 51 passes for an additional 421 yards.
From 2005-07, Roper helped Cornell University to an overall ledger of 16-14. He coached the running backs and tight ends during his first two seasons before switching to cornerbacks in 2007 and also served as special teams coordinator. Roper coached or recruited eight Ivy League Player of the Week selections.
On the special teams front in 2007, Cornell paced the league in punt return average — returning two punts for touchdowns during the year — and kickoff coverage. The Big Red also posted touchdowns via fake field goal and kickoff return. Coaching the running backs in 2006, Roper tutored Luke Siwula, who rushed for 885 yards en route to receiving All-Ivy League honors. In 2005, Cornell finished the year ranked 10th nationally in rushing offense.
Roper’s work with the Cornell placekickers yielded zero missed point after touchdown attempts over his three seasons as A.J. Weitsman and Peter Zell combined to boot 84 consecutive extra points. In addition, Weitsman established a Cornell single-season record with 14 field goals while punter Michael Bolling downed 23-of-52 punts inside the 20 yard-line without a touchback in 2005.
Prior to joining the Big Red staff, Roper spent four years at Ole Miss as a graduate administrative aide and graduate assistant coach under current Duke head coach David Cutcliffe, working with the wide receivers, tight ends and placekickers. Mississippi’s 2003 squad won 10 games with a share of the SEC Western Division title and defeated Oklahoma State, 31-28, in the Cotton Bowl.
Ole Miss kicker Jonathan Nichols enjoyed a sensational season in 2003 by earning All-SEC and All-America honors while winning the Lou Groza Award as the nation’s top kicker. He graduated as the school’s all-time leader in total points (344) and finished his career having made 117 consecutive PATs. Punter Cody Ridgeway was an all-league choice in 2003.
Roper was an undergraduate assistant coach at Oklahoma from 1996-98. He graduated from Ole Miss in 2001 with a degree in political science and went on to earn a master’s degree in higher education/student personnel two years later.
A native of Knoxville, Tenn., Roper is married to the former Rebecca Harvey of Bossier City, La., and the couple has one son, Joshua (born January 5, 2009) and one daughter, Mikayla (born December 12, 2010).
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