UVa TE Jake McGee previews spring game

Virginia’s Orange-Blue spring game is on Saturday at Scott Stadium, and there will be plenty worth watching, as the Hoos have two new coordinators in Jon Tenuta and Steve Fairchild. The game starts at 1 p.m. ET and will be on ESPN3.

One player to watch will be tight end Jake McGee, who should have a bigger role in the new offense this year. He played in all 12 games and started three last fall, finishing with five touchdown receptions. Only Heath Miller (2002 & 2003), Bruce McGonnigal (1989) and Ed Carrington (1965) own more tight end touchdowns in a season at UVa.

McGee really made a name for himself last year against Penn State. He had four catches for 99 yards, including the game-winning touchdown with 1:28 left. He made two catches on the game-winning drive -- a 44-yard, one-handed reception on a 3rd-and-16, the second was the touchdown on third-and-goal from the 6-yard line.

Not a bad introduction.

What’s in store for 2013? Here are the highlights of our conversation:

What are Virginia fans going to see from you in the spring game on Saturday?

Jake McGee: Hopefully they’ll see a team that has been working hard to get the new offense going and see guys who are really ready to take a step forward from last season’s let-down a little bit and get back on track.

What happened last season?

JM: I don’t think we can really pinpoint it on one thing, it’s just one of those things that didn’t work out well and you have to remember how it feels but move on and head to a better season coming up.

After the season, Mike London made a bunch of staff changes. How much of a difference has that made this spring?

JM: It’s always new when you have different faces around you, but so far the attitude has been a really strong commitment to getting us better, and the new coaches have really helped get installed some good principles for the offense and the team as a whole.

I talked to coach London, and he told me Steve Fairchild definitely wants to get the tight ends more involved. How do you see your role changing this year?

JM: Well, first it starts with myself. I have to get to the level where they’re comfortable with me doing everything that a tight end does and being able to help the team in all aspects. I’m sure once that happens, there will be more and more on my plate to make plays and really help this offense grow.

How much has the playbook changed?

JM: There’s a different playbook, but the principles are the same, so there’s different terminology, and some different stuff, but the majority of it is the same base concepts so it hasn’t been too difficult.

What’s it been like working with Tom O’Brien this spring?

JM: It’s been great so far. He’s a guy who stays on you, really pushes for the best out of you, and when a guy like that who has all of that experience and success comes into your room, you listen and want to hear everything he say.

Yeah, how much more of an impact do his words have when it feels like five minutes ago he was a head coach?

JM: It’s definitely an honor to have a guy like that coaching you, so you want to do the best you can and you want to take everything he has to share with you and really become the best you can because he’s been doing it for so long and had a lot of success.

Offensively, as a group, what do you think the main priorities are between now and when you kickoff?

JM: It’s really just getting crisp with everything and learning the new offense so there’s no transition period from the first game. We want to be clicking when that first game comes instead of taking a few games to get in.

Who are some of the other tight ends who have stepped up this spring that Virginia fans might get to know better this fall?

JM: A big face they’ll see is Zach Swanson with me. He’s moved back from fullback, and he’s looking great. I think that will be a really good one-two punch with us and then Rob Burns.

What have you guys been saying in the locker room about your schedule? It’s pretty tough.

JM: It’s always good to have a challenge like that. It really gives us no time to go slow or not put 100 percent effort in because the first game is against a top team in the country, followed by more top teams. There’s really no time to be lazy or take time off because once the season starts, you’re right into the thick of it.

What was last season like for you? It seemed like a bit of a coming out party. I was at the Penn State game, and I think that’s kind of when I got to know you.

JM: Yeah, it was fun. I’ve always been a guy who loves being on the field. It was fun to get going and make plays because that’s something I’ve always done really at any level I’ve played. It was nice to contribute to the team. I kept wanting to get more, so this spring I need to get as strong as possible to make even more plays this fall.

What are you working on in particular?

JM: Just strength and really understanding the position because I’m still sort of new to it, but just becoming as good as possible in all aspects to really have an impact season.

How much better do you think you guys can be as a team this year?

JM: I think we have a chance to be a really strong team this year. If things come together, I think we have enough talent on both sides of the ball for good things to happen.