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Is Jake McGee the answer to UF's third down woes?

GAINESVILLE -- Jake McGee hasn’t recorded a catch since Nov. 30, 2013, but Florida’s sixth-year senior tight end may solve the Gators’ recent third down troubles.

McGee, the former Virginia transfer, successfully petitioned the NCAA for an extra year of eligibility (a case he didn’t think he’d actually win) after missing all last season with a broken leg.

His UF career appeared over before it ever really began, but the NCAA (surprisingly) did something right and now the 23-year-old college veteran is healthy and ready to contribute.

And Florida desperately needs him.

UF’s offensive ineptitude is well known. In three of the last four years, the Gators’ attack ranked in the bottom-20 nationally in total yards.

Florida has struggled to generate touchdowns, first downs or simply convert third downs at a respectable clip.

According to Football Outsiders, Florida’s First Down Rate never climbed above No. 101 nationally during Will Muschamp’s four-year tenure.  

UF’s third down efficiency was only marginally better, ranking No. 97 (36%), No. 80 (38%), No. 90 (36%) and No. 111 (32%) over the last four seasons.  

Meanwhile, new head coach Jim McElwain’s Colorado State offenses didn’t have any trouble converting third downs the last several seasons, ranking 11th in the country at 49 percent in 2014.  

Enter McGee.

Florida’s 6-foot-6, 245-pound tight end is a vertical threat and mismatch in the middle of the field. He’s an ideal fit for McElwain’s offensive scheme that is designed to maximize quarterback efficiency and get the ball in his best players’ hands.

McGee isn’t just a safety net. He's a third down machine.

The senior has 71 career receptions -- 38 catches for first downs. He has seven career touchdowns -- six on third down.

In two seasons at Virginia, McGee tallied 27 catches for 299 yards and six scores on third down alone.

By comparison, Quinton Dunbar -- Florida’s second-leading wideout three straight seasons -- finished his career with 29 receptions on third down. 

The Gators are still a long way from deciding who will actually be throwing the football this fall. But with a receivers group continuing to underwhelm, McGee stands as the legitimate X-factor jumpstarting UF’s woeful offense next season.

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

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