Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Colleges

Gators have high hopes for TE Jake McGee

GAINESVILLE — When Jake McGee first visited Gainesville in late spring, he was in search of a new school at which to finish his collegiate football career. His host, Florida junior quarterback Jeff Driskel, was well aware of how valuable a big-time tight end like McGee could be to the Gators' struggling offense.

But Driskel played it cool. He didn't put on the full-court press. Instead, he let the situation speak for itself.

"(McGee) being a fifth-year senior, you can't really push someone like that," Driskel said. "But I just told him that it's a great place and he would fit in really well here."

Three months after McGee arrived in Gainesville, he has discovered Driskel was right: Florida is a good fit for him.

"It's been fun, getting back out and playing football again," said McGee, who graduated from Virginia in May. "Guys look great; guys are working hard. It's a lot of fun so far. Guys have been helping me along. This summer we did a lot of work with the plays and learning the playbook, so it's just continuing to grow with technique, footwork and to become the best football player I can be."

If his best is anything like the player McGee was at Virginia, count that as a huge bonus for the Gators. Last season he led the Cavaliers with 43 receptions for 395 yards.

"He's been great," Driskel said. "He's made some big plays for us. He knows what he's doing, which is really big. You can tell he's been around football a lot. He has really good ball skills and he's going to be a big help for us."

McGee has been earning praise during fall camp. At 6 feet 5 and 255 pounds, McGee is expected to play a critical role in Florida's new offense with his size, speed and ability to catch the ball.

"He's got really good ball skills," coach Will Muschamp said. "He's a matchup issue, especially in the red zone. He's a guy who has really good ball skills down the field."

Muschamp hasn't had a great deal of success with tight ends since he arrived in Gainesville in 2011. Five players at the position, including Land O'Lakes' Kent Taylor, have transferred during his tenure.

New offensive coordinator Kurt Roper is known for using tight ends extensively, most recently last season with Duke when Braxton Deaver had 46 catches for 600 yards and four touchdowns. The last Florida tight end to register those types of numbers was Aaron Hernandez in 2009 (68 receptions for 850 yards).

Roper likes what he sees in McGee.

"He's a smart guy," Roper said. "He's played a lot of football, so it's not new to him. All he has to do is be able to understand the language."

McGee has quickly impressed his teammates, too.

"He's going to be good," sophomore running back Kelvin Taylor said. "He's got hands out this world. He's strong, and I feel like he's just going to add, like, a different weapon to our offense that probably we haven't had in, like, the last two years. I feel like he's going to be a great player, too."

Virginia was 2-10 last season, so McGee has an idea of what his new teammates endured with their 4-8 season. Everyone, McGee said, is battling to become better.

"I think a down season forces everyone to have a complete focus to put the best foot forward that they can," he said. "You want to prove that a bad season isn't a norm or what the guys are made of in the locker room. Coming in late, the attitude this summer was a real focused, committed to the team (attitude). It's a fun process."

Contact Antonya English at [email protected] Follow @TBTimes_Gators.

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