CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) – Jake McGee has been making spectacular catches since he arrived at Virginia.
The first catch of his career at tight end- a one-handed grab of an errant pass for a 17-yard gain against Richmond- began a stream of highlight-reel receptions.
There was the 44-yard pass he caught on third-and-16 against Penn State, defenders draped all over him. And the 19-yard catch-and-run touchdown against Georgia Tech, finished when he hurdled a defender to get to the end zone.
Now the 6-foot-6 converted high school quarterback wants to become an every-down player, and not just a one-dimensional threat. He has bulked up to 250 pounds and has worked to improve his blocking and pass protecting.
“That was part of it, to be able to have the mass to stay with the D-ends and stuff like that, but it’s also part of the position,” McGee said of the 15 extra pounds he’s added this offseason.
“To be a full tight end, there’s a body type that you need to be.”
The Cavaliers played three tight ends last season, and Paul Freedman and Colter Phillips were both more adept at the lineman-type skills, meaning McGee’s entrance into games almost telegraphed why he was in.
He caught 28 passes, including five touchdowns, but drew more attention as the season wore on.
“People that have film, they look at the film and try to see, like we all do, personnel and what you do when you have particular personnel in,” coach Mike London said. “One of the things we always want to work on with him is being physical at the point of attack. It’s something that Jake has been working on and will continue to work on and knows that that has to be part of his game as well. … We don’t want teams game-planning what they do based on what he’s limited at.”
New offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild said he purposely didn’t go back and look at much film from last season, but it didn’t take long in the spring to realize that McGee was a big target with a knack for making big plays.
“There’s no way, shape or form of getting around it,” Fairchild said. “You’ve got to have guys that can make plays, and he appears to be one of those guys that, even if he’s not open, he’s got a chance at getting the football and making something happen. I’m excited. We’ll just develop and see what he does.”
McGee’s emergence has drawn obvious comparisons to Heath Miller, another former quarterback who switched to tight end at Virginia and emerged as one of the top tight ends in the country. Miller was a first-round draft choice of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2005, and made his first Pro Bowl in 2010.
Teammates say McGee has the same abilities.
“He’s got all the talent in the world. He’s just got to want to do it,” guard Luke Bowanko said. “He’s a super talented kid. He’s a great basketball player, great softball player. He’s going to be fine. He just needs to put the weight on, which he has, and want to do it. Get his nose dirty a little bit.”
McGee hopes he gets the chance to show his willingness to do it.
“I’m confident in saying that I could be an every down blocker and an every down player. It’s taken a lot of work and I’ve put a lot of time in this summer and spring and winter,” McGee said.
And he’s not shying away from comparisons to Miller.
Said McGee, “I’m not going to complain if I get mentioned in the same sentence as he is.”