CHARLOTTESVILLE — For those Virginia coaches, players and fans who watched Thursday night’s NFL Hall of Fame game, there was a reminder of a hole the Cavaliers need to fill.
Record-breaking UVa wide receiver Olamide Zaccheaus had two receptions and was targeted on several other throws by Atlanta Falcons backup quarterback Kurt Benkert, who was one of Zaccheaus’ teammates at Virginia in 2016 and 2017.
Zaccheaus had 85 receptions for the Cavaliers in 2017, which was a school record until he caught 93 passes last season, most of them from Benkert’s successor, Bryce Perkins.
Hasise Dubois, a junior at the time, had 52 receptions and was the only other UVa player with more than 25 catches.
His longest reception was for 33 yards but he had five TD catches.
Joe Reed, third on the team in receptions last season, qualifies as a deep threat with 75-yard receptions in each of the past two seasons.
Last year was the first time any of the wideouts had worked with quarterback Bryce Perkins, a junior college transfer who had arrived in Charlottesville in time for winter and spring workouts.
“It seems that he’s one of us,” said Dubois, a 6-foot-3, 215-pounder from Irvington, New Jersey. “He comes in every day, ready to do his work and get better.
“Sometimes he has to get on me; sometimes he doesn’t. Basically, every time we hit the field, we clock in and try to get better.”
Virginia has added a pair of transfers wide receivers, Wayne Chatman from Arizona State and Dejon Brissett from Richmond.
Terrell Jana, who played in 12 games last year and caught a 12-yard touchdown pass against Pittsburgh, is seen as a breakout candidate.
They’ve had plenty of work with Perkins, who was responsible for 349 of 358 UVa pass attempts last season.
“It’s going to be all over the place as far as touches,” said Perkins, whose 212 rushing attempts were three behind club leader Jordan Ellis who has graduated.
Perkins said that Reed and 5-foot-8, 160-pound sophomore Tavares Kelly probably would field some of the long balls that went to Zaccheaus last year, “but, as far as the offense, it’s going to be totally different.”
“I could tell you the unique qualities of every one that sets them apart from each other. It’s great to see that so many guys have different assets. [Training] camp is all guys about moving up and down the depth chart.”
Chatman (6 foot 3, 190 pounds) was Perkins’ roommate at Arizona State prior to Perkins breaking his neck and eventually resetting his college football career via the junior college route.
“His arms are so long that his catch rate is amazing,” Perkins said. “His speed is great, too. He can stretch the field and that takes stress off of other people.”
Perkins said he feels better physically than he did at the end of the 2018 season.
“Toward the end of the season, my [right] arm was aching every day,” he said. “I’ve definitely learned how to manage my arm better and manage my body better.”