After just one of last season’s three graduate transfers panned out, Virginia football coach Bronco Mendenhall made sure he did his homework when scouring the nation for this fall’s crop.
Mendenhall bowed to his sense of journalistic integrity when it came to adding former Arizona State wide receiver Terrell Chatman. He felt comfortable adding the Louisiana native, who was once one of the top high school recruits in the country, after finding three credible sources.
Mendenhall’s first graduate assistant from his BYU days, Danny Gonzalez, is now the defensive coordinator at Arizona State. He offered a scouting report on Chatman, as did Virginia’s strength and conditioning coordinator Shawn Griswold, who also worked with him at ASU, and UVa quarterback Bryce Perkins, who roomed with the 6-foot-3, 195-pound receiver at Arizona State.
“The leap of faith was reduced to just a small step,” Mendenhall said. “So there’s three sources that basically said the same thing and thought that he would and could have a great career with us and just needed an opportunity. With three people that I know and trust, it was an easy choice.”
Through the first two games of his Virginia career, Chatman’s numbers aren’t out of his world: 4 catches, 77 yards and a touchdown. But his impact has been felt in both games, which suggests that leap has paid off.
“It feels good and makes me feel like all my hard work is paying off,” Chatman said upon learning about all the glowing endorsements he received. “Really my biggest emphasis this year is just having fun with the game.”
In the season opener at Pittsburgh, Chatman used his frame and athleticism to go up between three defenders and snatch a pass out of the air. In Friday’s home opener against William & Mary, he flashed late in the end zone and Perkins found him on a touchdown pass that was four years in the making.
“It felt good. It felt natural, and I hope it’s not my last time,” Chatman said.
His first touchdown as a Cavalier felt that much better coming from Perkins, who was in the same recruiting class at Arizona State in 2016 and joined the Sun Devils with similarly high expectations. Chatman was ESPN’s No. 30 wide receiver prospect in the nation. Perkins was an electrifying dual-threat quarterback. Neither made a meaningful impact in Tempe.
“We’re going to talk about it and we’re going to make some jokes about some opportunities we missed as well,” said Chatman, adding that knowing Perkins and his reputation eased his transition to a new team on an unfamiliar campus. “Bryce has so much respect here and that translated to the teammates.”
Chatman appeared in 13 career games for the Sun Devils, and he left the program with just three career receptions. It only took him two games to eclipse that at Virginia, and Perkins said he knew it was just a matter of time before Chatman’s potential translated to the field.
“I’m proud of him. Every time he touches the field, I see the joy on his face,” Perkins said. “Even at ASU, our redshirt year, I knew he could have been on the field. The talent he had was tremendous. For him to be on the field now getting better and better, I’m happy for him.”
Perkins and Chatman are once again roommates, they’re once again sharing the same practice field and Chatman is once again turning heads. Cornerback Nick Grant knew right away that he added something unique to the passing game.
“Ever since he got here, he’s had a little different feel that I’ve never really played against,” Grant said. “He has the speed of [former UVa wide receiver Andre] Levrone, but he has more of like a suddenness to him.”
Grant said Chatman’s first big catch in fall camp was against him.
Virginia’s coaches hope to see him high point some more passes, especially in the red zone and especially on Saturday against Florida State, which is giving up 324 passing yards through its first two games of the season.