By Jeff White (

CHARLOTTESVILLE — At UVa’s 15th and final football practice of the spring, wide receiver Dominique Terrell ran by defenders several times in 11-on-11 drills Saturday morning.

That wasn’t the first time Terrell’s elusiveness has been on display at Virginia. In a disappointing year for head coach Mike London’s team, which finished 4-8, Terrell’s late-season surge was one of the positives in 2012.

He had 16 catches for 233 yards in Virginia’s final three games, and “just being able to help the team and get yardage for the team, set them up for touchdowns, that was a big confidence-builder for me,” Terrell said Saturday.

In a 41-40 win over ACC rival Miami on Nov. 10 at Scott Stadium, he caught nine passes for 127 yards — both career highs. Terrell finished the year third on the team in receptions, with 38, and second in receiving yards, with 475, and the rising junior from Manassas figures prominently in new offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild’s plans for the coming season.

“There are so many things that we can do with him,” wide receivers coach Marques Hagans said Saturday. “You can move him all over the field. He can line up inside, he can line up outside. And so I think with the confidence and the progression that he’s had in the weight room, his playbook can expand and he can do a lot of things to help us.”

Terrell is a graduate of Osbourn High School, where he rushed for 2,077 yards as a senior in 2010. He primarily played quarterback that season, however, and struggled as a college wideout in 2011.

One of 12 true freshmen to play for the Wahoos that season, Terrell had a 27-yard reception for the winning touchdown in overtime against Idaho and a 29-yard catch against Auburn in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. His other six catches in 2011, however, netted a combined 3 yards.

He probably would have benefited from redshirting in 2011, Terrell acknowledged Saturday, “but I’m happy they threw me in the fire, so I got a first-hand experience and got used to it.”

Terrell started six games in 2012, and as the season progressed he became an integral part of the passing game. He’s made equally impressive strides off the field.

When he arrived at UVa in 2011, the 5-11 Terrell weighed about 155 pounds. “I’ve always been a smaller guy,” he said. In high school, that wasn’t a problem for Terrell. At UVa, he learned that speed and quickness weren’t enough.

Hagans, a former UVa great who played wideout in the NFL, advised Terrell to get serious about training with Evan Marcus, Virginia’s strength-and-conditioning coach for football. Terrell now weighs about 175 pounds.

“I don’t expect him to be Hercules,” Hagans said, “but I told him to visit with Coach E, map out a plan so he could get stronger. He doesn’t necessarily have to get him bigger, just stronger, so he can endure some of those hits and carry out throughout a season. He’s done that in great detail, and Coach E has done a great job in working with him, so we’re looking for great things this year.”

Marcus said: “The thing that impresses me [about Terrell] is the buy-in to what we’re doing and the fact that hard work will make him better. He’ll admit that he probably went through high school and didn’t have to really work hard at all. And when he first came here, he struggled a little bit, because things were really hard for him to do.

“But he made the decision to say, `I’m not going to be that guy who quits. I’m not going to be the guy that falls out.’ It took a little while, but once he committed he was all in. And now he not only sets a standard for himself, but he’ll help other guys who he feels might have been him coming out of high school, and he’ll take them under his wing and say, `Hey, listen, this is how we do things here.’ ”

Another talented wideout who entered UVa in 2011, Darius Jennings, has shown the same work ethic. Jennings caught 48 passes for a team-high 568 yards and five touchdowns last season.

Marcus said the Cavaliers’ most experienced receiver, senior Tim Smith, has excelled as a mentor for Terrell and Jennings. Smith caught 20 passes for 405 yards and four TDs in 2012.

“Tim just helped Dominique and D.J. both by showing how aggressive you have to be in the weight room and how fearless you have to be,” Marcus said. “Timmy’s really fearless in the weight room. He goes after hard weights and heavy weights. He’s aggressive and brings a lot of energy. I think when those two guys saw him they were like, `Wow, that’s what it takes.’ ”

As a true freshman, Terrell often struggled to hold onto the ball, but he improved in that area in 2012 and made more progress this spring. He now looks like a receiver, not a converted quarterback or running back.

“I’m way more confident now,” Terrell said. “I’m depending on my hands and not just using my body, and I read the coverages better. And there’s just my mentality, how I don’t think anybody can stop me.”

Hagans said: “Confidence just comes with demonstrated performance, and I think he’s more comfortable in the offense. He clearly understands his role and what we need him to do, and how he can help us win. So now it’s just a matter of taking what we’ve done this spring and not taking time off, continuing to progress from where we ended today. And I think if he can continue to progress — which he will — we’ll have another option on offense that will help us be effective.”

Rising sophomore Canaan Severin missed most of spring practice with an injury, but Hagans got to work extensively with UVa’s other wideouts: Terrell, Jennings, Smith, E.J. Scott, Miles Gooch, Adrian Gamble, Kyle Dockins and Jamall Brown. Of that group, only Smith will be a senior in the fall.

“For what we wanted to get accomplished this spring, I think we’ve accomplished our goals,” Hagans said. “But that doesn’t mean we’re complacent about the result. Now we’ve just got to get better. We’ve got the foundation in, the structure that we want to have, as far as the offense, now it’s just a matter of getting better and perfecting our techniques.”

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