Gators transfer TE Jake McGee already forming bond with Jeff Driskel
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- When tight end Jake McGee transferred to Florida this summer, coaches arranged for him to live with quarterback Jeff Driskel.
The two formed an instant bond.
By the end of the season, they might be best friends.
McGee is expected to play a key role in Florida's revamped offense, a 6-foot-5, 255-pound target with the size to overmatch defensive backs, the speed to run by linebackers and the experience to be a difference-maker for Driskel and the Gators.
"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."
Florida has developed a number of versatile tight ends over the last decade, including Ben Troupe, Cornelius Ingram, Aaron Hernandez and Jordan Reed.
The Gators thought they had a few more in the pipeline, but Michael McFarland, Gerald Christian, A.C. Leonard, Kent Taylor and Colin Thompson all transferred during coach Will Muschamp's four-year tenure.
Those departures left a huge hole at the position, one McGee just might be able to fill.
McGee, who earned his undergraduate degree at Virginia in May and joined Florida a few days later under the NCAA's graduate-transfer rule, led the Cavaliers with 43 receptions for 395 yards last season.
He's in line for more catches in Gainesville, where new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper has a knack for incorporating tight ends in his spread offense. With Roper calling plays at Duke last season, tight end Braxton Deaver was second on the team with 46 receptions for 600 yards and four touchdowns.
Those numbers are better than any player has posted at Florida since Hernandez's final season in 2009.
So the Gators have high expectations for McGee.
"Smart guy. He's played a lot of football, so it's not new to him," Roper said. "All he has to do is be able to understand the language. ... He knows what big-time football is for sure."
McGee spent his first few months in Gainesville getting up to speed with Roper's up-tempo scheme. Rooming with Driskel over the summer surely helped.
"We did a lot of work with the plays and learning the playbook, so it's just continuing to grow with technique, footwork and chemistry," McGee said. "It's something you want to continue to grow and get as crisp as you can by the first game."
The Gators open Aug. 30 against Idaho.
They're coming off the program's first losing season since 1979, and there's a lot of pressure on Muschamp and Roper to fix an offense that ranked 105th in the nation in 2011, 103rd in 2012 and 113th last year. Having Driskel back from a broken leg should be key, and getting the right guys around him will be equally important.
"I think a down season forces everyone to have a complete focus to put the best foot forward that they can," McGee 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 one. It's a fun process."
It's also a process that could end with McGee catching a lot of passes from Driskel.
"He's got really good ball skills," Muschamp said. "He's a matchup issue, especially in the red zone. ... He really judges the ball well. He can go get it. He does, he has really good ball skills."