April proved to be a good month for piano players in Scott Stadium. Francesco Badocchi wrapped up the basketball team’s National Championship celebration with “One Shining Moment” for the crowd on hand. Terrell Jana followed with a moment of his own when he pulled down a 64-yard touchdown reception to close spring practice for the football team.
That touchdown grab proved to be the culmination of what was potentially a break-through spring for Jana.
“Terrell Jana has been really valued by his peers in terms of leadership, some of our voting for leadership, what we call task unit leaders,” UVA coach Bronco Mendenhall said. “He’s probably been one of the bright spots of the spring from an offense perspective and we needed that at receiver. I’m excited about that.”
Quarterback Bryce Perkins, the returning starter for the Cavaliers, noticed Jana’s work this spring too. Perkins connected with Jana on 11 passes last season for 151 yards and a touchdown. Jana’s best game came against Pittsburgh where he hauled in 3 catches for 77 yards and a touchdown. He also had 3 catches for 32 yards against Georgia Tech, all of which came on a fourth quarter drive that forced overtime.
Even tough he missed the Belk Bowl with a knee injury, Jana stepped forward this spring to build on his 2018 season.
“He’s probably one of the biggest emergers on the offense,” Perkins said. “Just his leadership role has drastically increased. He’s kind of the leader of the receivers. He’s smart. He’s easy to work with. He has great speed. He knows coverages so we’re pretty much on the same page most of the time.”
Virginia needs some receivers to pick up their production with Olamide Zaccheaus now with the Atlanta Falcons. Zaccheaus made 93 catches for 1,058 yards and 9 touchdowns last season. That led the team, while Hasise Dubois and Joe Reed checked in second and third. Dubois posted 52 catches for 578 yards and 5 touchdowns, while Reed added 25 catches for 465 yards and 7 touchdowns.
Jana was the next highest receiver in production with his 11 catches and 151 yards. Still, Jana said his role feels different as a rising junior and one of the older players with experience.
“It’s different. My first year, it was me and two seniors,” Jana said. “Now being one of the older guys, I know the offense a lot and I’m able to help the young guys out. Just a little more confidence. They’re coming to me asking questions and their questions help me understand the offense better. Seeing that they rely on me to make plays, it’s not O anymore, it’s not [Andre Levrone], it’s not Doni [Dowling], so I think being the guy to step up and make plays on offense is a little more confidence and a little more eagerness on my part.”
Jana came to UVA from nearby Woodberry Forest where he had a productive career as a two-time VISAA All-State selection. As a senior in 2016, he made 64 catches for 1,308 yards and 19 touchdowns. He played as a true freshman at Virginia in 2017 and then saw his role increase last season. There’s been a step by step process from special teams to increased snaps on offense to more targets.
The coaches challenged him to take on more leadership this spring among the receivers as the next piece of that development. Of course, that’s nothing new. Jana said receivers coach Marques Hagans has always pushed players toward their potential.
“Coach Hagans has been a huge, huge part of my growth here,” Jana said. “From the beginning, he’s challenged me to be uncomfortable, to push myself to do extra things off the field and on the field. I think just his trust in me really helped with my confidence because he believed I could do it before I was doing it.”