University of Florida

Florida Gators lose Jake McGee for season with broken leg, turn to Clay Burton at tight end

The University of Florida routed Eastern Michigan 65-0 on Saturday, but its season-opening victory came at a heavy price.

Jake McGee’s Florida career ended before it ever truly started.

The graduate transfer tight end from Virginia — who led the Cavaliers with 43 receptions in 2013 — was carted off the field in the second quarter after sustaining a season-ending leg injury, breaking the tibia and fibula in his left leg.

McGee’s leg was rolled up on after the tight end was pinned between UF offensive lineman Trenton Brown and an Eastern Michigan defender on a short run play.

“I’m so disappointed for him,” UF coach Will Muschamp said. “It’s very difficult to come into a situation for one year, and he has done it as well as you could possibly imagine.

“It’s always concerning for me because I know what that locker room’s like, and I know where we are to bring someone in from the outside, and I thought this guy’s a total team guy, a tough guy.”

McGee underwent surgery late Saturday night and later posted on Twitter on Sunday morning, “Successful surgery. I appreciate the love and support from everyone. I am doing great and will kick this rehabs butt with a smile on my face.”

Quarterback Jeff Driskel, McGee’s roommate during the summer when the tight end first transitioned to Gainesville, expressed his disappointment about what happened to his friend and losing a potential valuable member of Florida’s revamped offense.

“It’s a bad deal,” said Driskel, who similarly broke the same two bones last season. “He’s a great guy, and I wouldn’t wish that upon anybody. Losing him is going to be big for our team. I feel for him and his family.”

Now, the Gators must turn to senior Clay Burton.

The 6-4, 250-pounder has mostly been utilized as a physical blocker during the past several seasons, but the senior actually led Florida in receptions (seven catches for 42 yards) against the Eagles.

“We have all the confidence in the world in him,” Muschamp said. “That’s why he’s a starter. He’s a guy who’s continued to make plays for us.

“He is a very valuable member of our organization. He’s got really good hands, really understands offensively what we’re trying to do. But now he’s got a huge role moving forward.”

Third-string tight end Tevin Westbrook will figure into the position moving forward, with talented freshman DeAndre Goolsby now also in the mix.

Burton entered the opener with just three career catches.

But he said he’s ready for the increased demands with McGee sidelined for the year.

“I accept it,” Burton said. “I want to do whatever I can to help the team win.”

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