The Florida Gators received an early Christmas present when former University of Virginia tight end Jake McGee announced on Friday that he would graduate early and enroll as a graduate student at the University of Florida for his final year of eligibility.
Before McGee decided on UF, the Gators were exceptionally weak at the tight end position. Last season, tight ends only amounted for four catches for 42 yards, roughly two percent of the team catches and two percent of the total receiving yards – putrid to say the least. Entering the 2014 season, the Gators were going to rely on the two returning tight ends from last season (Clay Burton and Tevin Westbook), while also counting on freshmen Deandre Goolsby.
Enter Jake McGee. In 2012, his first year cracking the tight end rotation, McGee had 28 receptions for 374 yards and five touchdowns. In 2013, McGee saw an increased number of receptions and yards with 43 and 395, respectively, while catching two touchdowns. McGee’s receptions and receiving yards led the team.
With the Gators moving away from an old pro-style offense under Brent Pease to a more open, spread offense with Kurt Roper, the role of the tight end has shifted away from being a primarily blocking role to a more pass catching role – a role that McGee could shine in.
Unlike most prospects that we look at when we do video analysis’, McGee has two years of game film that allow us to look at him as a pass catcher, a blocker, and analyze how well he will fit into the Gators’ offense.
In this first clip, we see McGee going up against a safety and a cornerback, catching a deep ball, while being blatantly interfered with. Compared to last season, the Gators were never in a position where they could send the tight end forty-plus yards up field and expect their tight end to come down with the ball. McGee plays the ball really well, adjusts his route, adjusts in the air, and focuses on grabbing the ball down while being blanketed in coverage.
In another clip, we see McGee breaking off an initial press just pass the line of scrimmage and going up to catch a leaping touchdown grab over two Miami Hurricanes to allow Virginia to win the game.
Further, in this play you see McGee catch a tough ball while being tightly covered, getting in front of his man and seeing in the catch.
Despite those catches, McGee also showed that he does need to improve in two areas – blocking and yards after catch. While it is hard to gather in a clip form, McGee does lumber a bit when he runs and often does not make the quickest decisions on cutting up field or running toward the sideline, giving the faster tackler a good opportunity to make a move on tackling the tight end. Further, he was never known for his blocking acumen while in Charlottesville. While he will be relied on more for catching and being a more reliable threat than what is currently on the roster, if history teaches us anything, Will Muschamp will not allow McGee to see much action on the field until he picks up the fundamentals of blocking, i.e. Kelvin Taylor.
Ultimately, Jake McGee is a very welcomed addition for the Gators. He brings experience and skill to a position that is desperately lacking both. Fans should temper their expectations slightly, as there will be a learning curve and there are some noticeable flaws in his game. McGee will likely immediately jump to the top of the depth chart and could add a wrinkle to the Gators game that did not exist last season.