Bogan hopes to finish breakout year strong
TAMPA -- When it comes to USF's receivers, so much of the conversation this season has been about how much the Bulls have missed key players from last year, with one expected starter lost to the NFL draft and two others lost to preseason injuries.
But as the Bulls have worked to make the most of a patchwork group of receivers, senior Dontavia Bogan has stood out with a breakout season that has him within reach of the Bulls' season and career marks for receiving yards.
"His commitment to fundamentals and technique on a day-to-day basis, the consistency of his work habit, it's been really special this year," receivers coach Phil McGeoghan said. "You want a senior to be a playmaker, a difference-maker. There are going to be times, obvious pass downs, where if you're our go-to receiver, we know we're throwing it to you, they know we're throwing it to you, and you have to step up and make a play. He did it a number of times."
Entering the season, the 22-year-old Bogan had never totaled more than 54 receiving yards against a I-A opponent -- he's done that seven times this season, leading the Bulls with 46 catches for 670 yards and five touchdowns. The same player whose name did not appear in USF's receiving record book needs just 37 yards to break Carlton Mitchell's single-season record of 706 yards, set last season, and with 130 yards Friday, he could break Mitchell's career yardage mark as well.
"I feel like I did what I had to do for this team, played as hard as I could possibly play every game," said Bogan, a Thomasville, Ga., native who missed one game early after injuring his ankle at Florida. "I've got one more game to go, and hopefully I can make some plays and get us a victory."
The Bulls are 4-1 this season when Bogan catches a touchdown pass, the lone exception a 19-16 loss on Dec. 4 to Connecticut, which saw Bogan catch a touchdown from Bobby Eveld in the fourth quarter as USF's rally fell short.
USF's losses at receiver -- Mitchell skipped his senior year to enter the NFL draft, and A.J. Love and Sterling Griffin were lost to season-ending injuries -- forced Bogan to transition from three years as a slot receiver to now working as an outside receiver. He had made his biggest mark before this year as a kickoff return specialist, but moving outside as a receiver introduced a different set of routes and roles and the challenge of going up against opponents' top cornerbacks.
"It's totally different -- you're in man coverage, but in the slot, you're working against voids and zones and things like that," McGeoghan said. "That transition in and of itself is asking a lot. It's a testament to what he's done and his progress."
Clemson's front seven on defense is as good as any the Bulls have faced, but the Tigers secondary has given up 100-yard games to four receivers this season, going 0-4 in those games. Miami's Leonard Hankerson went for 147 yards in beating Clemson, South Carolina's Alshon Jeffery went for 141, and Auburn's Darvin Adams and Florida State's Rodney Smith also went over 100 against the Tigers. Bogan himself has never had a 100-yard game -- he had 98 on 11 catches at West Virginia in October.
McGeoghan said Bogan has specific goals for the spring, shaving precious time off his 40 time and adding bulk to his 188-pound frame. He's wasting no time in beginning his draft preparation -- he'll begin training in Miami at Bommarito Performance Systems on Monday. Former USF players Jason Pierre-Paul, Jerome Murphy and Mitchell all worked out there last year before becoming draft picks.
There could be records on Friday, and he's hopeful of landing a spot in a senior showcase game in the next month. Then he'll focus on trying to improve his NFL stock, but what he's most interested in now is finishing his college career on a high note.
"You want to go out in a good way," Bogan said. "I basically just need to go out there and play."