After entering the season without a catch in his college career, sophomore tight end Jake McGee has quickly emerged as a big-play threat in the Virginia offense.
Against Richmond it was his one-handed catch that got national attention as a highlight. And McGee made Virginia's two biggest catches against Penn State last weekend -- a 44-yarder on third and 16 with two defenders covering him, and the game-winning touchdown with 1:28 left on the clock.
"I wouldn't say I've really been surprised, because I was confident in what I could do. It was just getting the chances to do it," says McGee, who spent the 2011 season playing primarily on special teams, where he made eight tackles. "Some of the catches have been a little crazier than I thought they would be. But I've been confident in what I can do."
McGee came to Charlottesville in 2010 as a quarterback, and his high school resume included back-to-back VIS Division I state titles -- including a win over Michael Rocco's Liberty Christian Academy team in 2009 -- at Richmond's Collegiate School. McGee moved to tight end not long after arriving at Virginia, and redshirted in 2010.
McGee saw some time on offense as a redshirt freshman in 2011, but didn't make a catch. Through the Cavaliers' first two games of 2012, he has six catches for 122 yards, and that touchdown reception against the Nittany Lions.
"To get a tight end back in this offense, back as a feature or go-to guy, he's demonstrated that in the last two games," said head coach Mike London. "And he's done it in practice time and time again. So you'll see more of him, for sure."
"I knew what I could do. And I'm sure, if you asked my teammates, too, they knew what I could do," said McGee. "And it was just translating it into game reps, and live opportunities to make those plays, and show UVa fans and everybody else that I could play, too."
McGee's early performance has drawn comparisons to another high school quarterback who moved to tight end at Virginia -- Pittsburgh Steelers Pro Bowler Heath Miller, who started for three years for the Cavaliers.
Both London and McGee admit that the sophomore has a lot of work to do before approaching Miller's accomplishments. But London
"I think his best football is in front of him," London said, "and at the same time, I think he can be as good as he wants to be."