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 made 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, Bogan never had more than 54 receiving yards against a Division I-A opponent. He has 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, set last season. With 130 yards Friday, he would break Mitchell's career yardage mark (1,648) 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, 22, a Thomasville, Ga., native who missed one game 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, the lone loss coming Dec. 4 to Connecticut, a 19-16 game in which Bogan caught a touchdown from Bobby Eveld in the fourth quarter.
USF's losses at receiver — Mitchell skipped his senior year to enter the NFL draft, and A.J. Love and Sterling Griffin had season-ending injuries — forced Bogan to transition to outside receiver after he spent three years as a slot receiver. That 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 had 147 receiving yards, South Carolina's Alshon Jeffery went for 141, and Auburn's Darvin Adams and Florida State's Rodney Smith also had more than 100 against the Tigers. Bogan has never had a 100-yard game — he had 98 on 11 catches in October at West Virginia.
McGeoghan said Bogan has specific goals for the spring — shaving a fraction 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 Monday in Miami at Bommarito Performance Systems. 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 hopes to land a spot in a senior showcase game 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."