McGee’s return helped Florida on the field in 2015, but it also benefitted the team going forward. As McGee heads to the NFL following this season, it will be left for Deandre Goolsby, Camrin Knight and C’yontai Lewis to take over the position heading into 2016.
McGee has been the leader at tight end. He’s one of the most respected players on the Florida offense and is usually the one to step up and say something when the offense needs a jumpstart. The sixth-year senior is second on the team with 41 receptions and third on the team with 381 yards, tied for the team lead with four touchdowns.
"It's definitely been beneficial,” Goolsby said of having McGee to look up to this season. “He's been through a lot, so to just have him around, teaching the ropes and getting you going is helpful. Having him be there with his experience and help us get ready for next year will be beneficial."
When Jim McElwain took over the Florida program last season and hired Doug Nussmeier as offensive coordinator, the tight ends on the roster knew they were in for an uptick in chances and targets. What they did with those was up to them. When Will Grier was the quarterback for the first six games of the year, the offense was clicking and featuring Goolsby, Lewis and McGee in the passing game. The offensive production dipped under Treon Harris and the tight ends’ chances went down with it.
But McGee was always there to make plays, even as the passing game took a step down. He caught an important first-half touchdown at LSU to keep the game close going into the second half. He also scored the game-winning touchdown in overtime to beat FAU. The senior’s production was an important part of Florida’s 10-win season.
"He was definitely a big piece to the offense,” Goolsby said. “He's taught us a lot throughout the year. He's basically told us, 'Get ready for next season.' He's been trusting us all year when we play.”
McGee’s lessons about next year have been even more important during bowl practices. He joined the other seniors and NFL-bound players away from the field during the first few practices of bowl prep, as the coaches wanted the lesser experienced players to get increased reps.
Those were important for the younger tight ends, who will be counted on heavily in the spring and next fall when McGee is gone. Goolsby showed he could be a factor, proving to be elusive after the catch and making plays near the line of scrimmage. Lewis looks like the tight end best fit to make plays down the field, but he battled a broken hand early in the season that limited his production. The two will have to step up next season for the offense to improve.
“All of us tight ends are going to work as a group, work hard all offseason and get ready to have another great season," Goolsby said.