USF's Bogan ready to carry heavy load

When receiver A.J. Love tore his ACL in South Florida's spring game, Dontavia Bogan knew that things had just changed for him.

"I was like, my sidekick just went down," Bogan recalled. "I've got to step my game up to another level. I've got to do whatever it takes and have the other receivers gather around me."

The Bulls' receiving corps was already going to be inexperienced, but the loss of Love -- and later, Sterling Griffin to a summer ankle injury -- really thinned the group. Bogan is the only healthy returnee who had more than 10 catches last season.

And even Bogan hasn't put up dazzling numbers. He had 22 catches for 305 yards and four touchdowns last year and now finds himself as the team's No. 1 target. The senior showed his ability in that same spring game, though, catching nine passes for 228 yards and four touchdowns. Granted, it was just a spring game with limited defenses. But it was something.

"I was showing people what I'm capable of doing with the ball," he said. "I've been playing since I was a true freshman, but I spent my first three years in the slot. Now I'm on the edge and should get more touches."

Bogan, who also returns kicks for the Bulls, knew he had a lot of responsibilities to cover this year. So this summer he put on eight pounds, growing to 193 on his 6-foot-1 frame. With a mostly young cast around him -- including sophomores Evan Landi, Lindsey Lamar and Derrick Hopkins and junior college transfer T.J. Knowles -- Bogan has to do more than just produce.

"I'm a senior and the only one with a lot of game experience," he said. "So I have to show them what it's like to play on Saturdays. Tell them how it's going to be tough and how you can't get down on yourself."

"Dontavia has always been a leader," Lamar says, "but he's stepped it up a notch since A.J. got hurt. He's pushing us to be the best we can be."

Bogan has to prove he can make big catches in big games -- he didn't top 50 receiving yards in any Big East contest last year -- and that he is a go-to guy. USF hopes that Love and Griffin can return sometime by midseason. Right now, there remain a lot of questions about the Bulls' receivers, but Bogan thinks the team has answers.

"Tune in September 4th," he said.