Jake McGee is the top receiving threat out of a diverse group of Virginia TEs.
Previous UVA Football* Quarterbacks
* Running Backs
* Wide Receivers
For a number of years, Virginia has been known as Tight End U. A lot of that came from Heath Miller, but there have been a number of UVA TEs to go on and play in the NFL. Big Money, of course, is the most famous, but Tom Santi, and Patrick Estes are also in that group.
The past couple of seasons, the Hoos have gone away from using the TE in the offense. Part of that is offensive philosophy, and part is personnel. The Hoos simply haven't the same quality of TEs. In 2007, three UVA TEs (Joe Torchia, Jonathan Stupar and John Phillips) combined for 93 catches, 974 yards and 7 TDs. Two years ago, four UVA TEs combined for just 38 catches, 377 yards and 5 TDs. Last year, those numbers dropped to just 20 catches, 147 yards and 2 TDs.
Those numbers probably can't go down much more, but will they go up? Is the TE going to remain an afterthought in the Virginia offense?
Admittedly, last years' numbers are skewed by the fact that Colter Phillips played hurt for much of the year. He missed 3 games, and never really seemed to catch up. He enters his senior year as the starter and certainly would like to go out on a high note. Phillips is a big target, at 6'6" and over 250 pounds, making him an ideal 3rd down target. He has decent speed, but not really game breaking speed. He is mostly used on underneath routes and is a reliable option there. However, with the speed the Hoos have on the outside, I think we might see Phillips (and the other TEs) used a bit more on deeper routes, in an effort to keep opposing safeties honest.
Phillips is a solid blocker, especially in the ground game. But his backup, Paul Freedman, is the better blocker of the two. Freedman is a bit bigger, at 6'6" and 260 pounds, and is better at engaging a defender and keeping him out of the play. Freedman is a real asset in the ground game, helping to seal the edge on outside runs. He is a good receiver with solid hands and a knack for getting open, but isn't quite the athlete that Phillips is.
The most athletic of the group of TEs is Jake McGee. McGee came into the program as a QB, although nobody was too surprised when he moved to TE. McGee has put on probably 30 pounds since entering college. Now a 6'5" 240 pound TE, McGee has the speed to stretch the field vertically, as we saw in the spring game (:18, 5:10). McGee isn't much of an in-line blocker right now, but he can be useful as a downfield blocker on screens and runs. McGee figures to get plenty of looks in certain packages as a guy who can get into the seam and make some big plays.
The final member of the quartet is Jeremiah Mathis. Mathis was originally a DE, and therefore is still a little bit behind the curve on things like route-running. However, Mathis is a big target (6'3" 245), and is a better athlete than a guy that big should be. Mathis has very good footwork, and makes for a good red zone target.
The other interesting name at TE is Rob Burns. Burns just recently made the switch from DE to TE. He isn't ready to contribute at TE right now, but with 4 solid contenders ahead of him that isn't a problem. At 6'7", Burns has the potential to be an above average blocker and also a dangerous red zone threat in the years ahead.
The TEs are a diverse group, with a variety of skill sets. Colter Phillips is the best all around TE, and will be the starter. But McGee provides a burst that the others can't match, and Freedman is a good enough blocker to act as an extra OT. It will be interesting to see how much the TEs are integrated into the offense, especially in light of the depth and talent at WR.