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Friday, April 3, 2009
Unheralded Bogan a force for Bulls at receiver, returner


Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

South Florida's coaching staff was divided over whether to offer a scholarship to Dontavia Bogan out of high school. Bogan's only other offer from a major program came from UAB.

He was an athlete with no apparent position, having played quarterback, receiver and safety in high school. Bogan said when he got to South Florida, coach Jim Leavitt asked if he wanted to play offense or defense.

Bogan chose wisely. He had a solid year among the Bulls' deep receiving corps as a sophomore and proved to be a force on special teams, setting school records for kickoff returns and return yards, averaging 26.6 yards per attempt.

"I was 17th in the nation in kickoff returns last year, but that wasn't good enough," he says. "I want to be number one this year."

Bogan said he played receiver sparingly during his high school career in Thomasville, Ga., and he had a lot to learn about the position in college. He saw the field in a limited role in the first half of his true freshman year until he was thrust into contributing against Rutgers, when the Bulls were trying to protect a No. 2 national ranking on the road.

"I remember going in there, and one of the outside linebackers jabbed me," he said. "I was like, 'I've got to get used to this or it's going to be a long year for me.'"

Bogan made adjustments and finished the year with 12 catches, including several spectacular diving grabs. Last season he had 26 receptions for 354 yards and a touchdown and again hauled in several difficult catches.

"I honestly think he might have the best hands on the team," offensive coordinator Mike Canales said. "He makes a lot of people miss, he's a good athlete and he can play a lot of different roles. I'm just impressed with the kid and what he's doing."

Canales compared the 6-foot-1 Bogan to a shorter version of New York Jets receiver Jericho Cotchery, whom Canales coached at NC State.

Bogan asked to be placed on kickoff return duty last season and quickly made an impact. Against UConn, he set a Big East record for average return yards in a game at 67.5, including a 71-yarder. He still gets teased by the coaches, though, for failing to beat the kicker on a couple of returns.

The South Florida receiving unit remains crowded, but Bogan can play either on the outside or in the slot positions. He's working this spring on improving his route-running, his blocking and his stamina.

One thing's for sure: a lot of programs whiffed on a valuable player.

"I'm just making progress year by year," he said.