TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Ron Dugans didn’t officially join Florida State’s coaching staff until late last month, and he and Florida State’s receivers are still going through early introductions during FSU’s “The Chase” offseason conditioning program.
But, in a sense, the new receivers coach and his proteges have already seen plenty of each other.
Dugans got an up-close and personal look at some his new charges last year at Miami when, as an assistant coach for the Hurricanes, he saw Tamorrion Terry and Keith Gavin haul in touchdown passes, he saw D.J. Matthews finish with a game-high five catches and he caught a glimpse of tight end Tre’ McKitty’s potential as a receiving target.
(Incidentally, he also got a look at Matthews’ arm strength and accuracy on the fateful double-pass that officials ruled a forward lateral.)
Florida State’s receivers, meanwhile, could learn plenty about their new coach by simply watching old FSU football highlights.
Like, say, the 48-yard touchdown pass he caught from Peter Warrick to beat Florida in 1998.
“I researched him myself,” FSU freshman Keyshawn Helton said, “to find out a little bit more about him.”
Dugans, a Tallahassee native who played at FSU from 1995-99, caught 105 passes for 1,520 yards and seven touchdowns for the Seminoles before moving on to a three-year career with the Cincinnati Bengals. He was part of five ACC championships, played in three national title games and had a key role on Bobby Bowden’s 1999 team that went wire-to-wire as the No. 1 team in the country.
Dugans ran precise routes, caught seemingly everything thrown his way and was a formidable, physical blocker.
He had a flair for play-making, too.
— FSU Football (@FSUFootball) February 21, 2019
No surprise that, 20 years later, Dugans demands those exact traits from his receivers.
He recently said that his top priorities for FSU’s upcoming spring camp include creating better blockers, developing a physical mindset and ensuring that his players have a deep knowledge of their playbooks.
Do all that, and Dugans is confident that the receivers will hold up their end of the bargain this fall.
“He’s a great coach,” freshman Tre’Shaun Harrison said. “He’s hard. He’s tough on his receivers. So I know that’s going to make us better.”
“He knows what it takes,” Helton added. “He’s going to hold us accountable. He’s going to have high expectations for us.”
Expectations that are, so far, being met.
“The Chase” doesn’t provide a full measure of a receiver’s abilities – there are no footballs, for one thing – and spring practice doesn’t start for another 10 days.
But Dugans has seen enough to know that he’s looking forward to what lies ahead.
Even after the departure of leading receiver Nyqwan Murray, Florida State returns 71 percent of its receiving yardage and 80 percent of its receiving touchdowns from 2018.
Sophomore Tamorrion Terry (744 yards, eight touchdowns) is the presumed headliner of the group, but Dugans will also have veterans Matthews and Keith Gavin, as well as promising youngsters Helton, Harrison and Warren Thompson at his disposal this spring.
“They give you a lot to work with,” Dugans said. “The kids, they want to be coached. They want to be taught. …
“Watching those guys work (at ‘The Chase,’) they can run. And I didn’t know they could run that well.”
And while Florida State’s receivers will have plenty to learn from Dugans over the next few months and beyond, they at least know this:
Their receivers coach knows exactly what it’s like to be in their shoes – as a Florida State receiver – he knows exactly what it takes to win championships and he knows exactly what it takes to get to the next level.
Those credentials make it awfully easy for Dugans to grab their attention.
“It’s great to have somebody back here who played here and knows the expectations that everyone holds Florida State to,” Helton said. “He’s a high-energy guy, and he expects a lot out of his receivers.”