McGee injury opens opportunity

The tight end position is in good hands when the Gators get Jake McGee back from a broken leg, but that won’t happen until the fall.

McGee will go through some drills during spring practice. Florida coach Jim McElwain made it clear that he’ll be able to get some work in but won’t be on the field when the Gators go live with the offense against the defense.

After breaking his leg in the first half of the season opener in 2014, McGee heads into his sixth year of college football with 71 career catches for 769 yards and seven touchdowns.

“He’s been running with our team but we certainly don’t want to jeopardize that. It’s too short out from what occurred there but he’ll be involved in a lot of the skelly drills, a lot of the half line pop work, that type of stuff. He just won’t be in any scrimmage or any live drills.

“I think we should get a pretty good idea how he’s going to fit to help the program next fall.”

Behind McGee, there isn’t much proven production. Of the four other tight ends on the roster, none have a catch at the college level. There’s a trio of second-year players -- DeAndre Goolsby, C’yontai Lewis and Moral Stephens. Goolsby was the only one of the three that didn’t take a redshirt last season, playing in seven games mostly on special teams. Freshman Daniel Imatorbhebhe will also join the group as one of two early enrollees this spring.

After losing Clay Burton and Tevin Westbrook, who caught the only passes from the tight end position last year, the Gators are still fine with numbers at the position.

“We’ve got a good group of tight ends -- I’m talking from a numbers standpoint,” McElwain said. “They’re going to allow us to kind of move the direction we want to offensively with those guys handling a lot of load.”

Even if McGee were healthy and capable of playing without restrictions this spring, it wouldn’t benefit much. Florida mostly knows what it has with McGee, and the young players need more of a chance to prove what they can do. There’s no clear favorite for who will be the second tight end on the team in the fall, and they also have to figure out who will take over the tight end position when McGee leaves following the 2015 season.

To figure things out, they’ll throw the young tight ends into reps when spring ball starts on Monday and see who stands out.

“There won’t be a lack of reps,” McElwain said. “That’s up to us to strengthen that position. We’ve got a great coach there that’s coached for a long time (Greg Nord) and part of that reason is that I knew what we needed to do at that spot. We also need to expose them a little bit to what we expect at the spot. It’ll be interesting moving forward, but we have numbers at that spot. That’s one of those spots, from just a pure numbers, is actually pretty good.”

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