Senior receiver Dontavia Bogan didn’t quite know how to respond to entering fall camp as the lone healthy experienced receiver on USF’s roster.
Projected starters A.J. Love and Sterling Griffin each went down to injuries in the offseason, and the coaches turned to Bogan to be the leader of the receiving corps.
But Bogan struggled in that role – at first.
“He started really slow. Earlier in camp, I don’t think he was as consistent as he needed to be to be that senior,” said coach Skip Holtz. “I think he’s really stepped it up.”
Wide receivers coach Phil McGeoghan said part of the problem could have been Bogan’s difficulty with reading and reacting to new schemes thrown at him on defense by defensive coordinator Mark Snyder, who is in his first year at USF as part of Holtz’s new staff.
Bogan admitted he struggled adjusting to the new surroundings at Vero Beach, where the team spent the first two weeks of fall camp, training at Vero Beach Sports Village, formerly known as Dodgertown.
He improved by “just understanding the defenses and how they’re trying to play him, recognition of coverage – just understanding where we’re trying to hit things from points in the zones and where we’re trying to attack the defense specifically,” McGeoghan said.
Offensive coordinator Todd Fitch said he challenged Bogan when the two met face-to-face before the team’s second scrimmage.
Bogan then responded with two touchdown catches, including one on a fade route between two defenders.
“We talked a little one-on-one just about what we’re looking for. He’s got to be our feature guy, obviously, with the injuries we’ve had,” Fitch said. “He’s taken the challenge … I Just want to see him have fun. I want him to lead the receiving group, and he’s done that. That was fun to see.”
Quarterback B.J. Daniels said he’s noticed a different Bogan during the second portion of camp.
“Bogan stepped up. He has a lot on his plate right now (being the guy). He’s trying to gel with the core we have and help those guys out being that he has more game experience. That’s a real solid receiver as far as blocking, catching and different things like that.”
Bogan said he’s “focused a lot more” now that he’s back at USF after “Vero Beach started off slow,” and he started to understand what the coaches expected of him as the season inched closer.
After Bogan – who caught 22 passes for 305 yards last year while also serving as the team’s primary kick returner – the only other healthy receivers on USF’s roster who caught passes last year are sophomores Lindsay Lamar and Evan Landi, who combined for 15 catches.
“I’m the only one in the group with game experience,” Bogan said. “I’m just picking up these young guys and hoping they bond around me and we can put this thing together.”
Newcomers such as freshmen Deonte Welch and Stephen Bravo-Brown and sophomore T.J. Knowles, who transferred from junior college, have made strides in camp and could find themselves pushing for spots on the second team this season.
Bogan said the receivers, who are considered the weak link on the team, are playing with a chip on their shoulder.
“I feel like everybody has a question about our receiving group. We want to put an exclamation mark on that going into the season,” Bogan said.
“You’re going to see me go 110 percent day in and day out,” he said, “in practice, on and off the field – do whatever it takes to make the guys around me great and me great.”