There was a common theme throughout the 2018 season that consistently held back the Penn State offense — regularly dropped passes that stalled drives, took points off the board, and in some cases, likely cost the team a victory.
It seemed to be a case of the yips that spread through the receiving corps. And once it started, it seemed most of the receivers could not get a handle on things, both literally and figuratively.
After back-to-back losses with an underperforming offense, James Franklin had enough. It was decided that Jahan Dotson’s services were needed, burning his redshirt as he became a regular part of the offense.
Dotson entered Penn State as a four-star receiver, but was somewhat overshadowed by Justin Shorter and Daniel George, his two positionmates in the 2018 recruiting class. However, the buzz about Dotson began to grow as soon as he stepped foot on campus. He immediately showcased his abilities against the starting secondary, playing well beyond his years. By the time the midway point of the season came around, Dotson had proved himself too valuable to remain on the sidelines.
His stats were modest, but his presence was undeniable. In the six regular season games and the Citrus Bowl, Dotson finished with 13 catches for 203 yards. But the numbers don’t tell the whole story, as Dotson finally provided a reliable target for Trace McSorley. He quickly proved to be a clutch receiver, making several receptions on third and fourth downs to keep the chains moving and help put some points on the board when the drive would have likely otherwise stalled out well before the Nittany Lions were in scoring range.
Dotson has an exceptional feel for the game, which helped him make an impact much sooner than expected. He knows how to find holes in the defense, and running precise routes to get open just at the right time. It’s obvious that Dotson is a very coachable player who will only keep getting better, especially as a true sophomore.
The comparisons to former Penn State receiver Jordan Norwood are unmistakable. Not only are they nearly the exact same size (both stand at 5’11”, with Norwood having a two-pound advantage at 171 vs. 169), they have the aforementioned abilities to get open and then catch the ball whenever it’s thrown in their direction. Norwood exited Penn State ranked fourth in career receptions, then went on to enjoy a 10-year career in the NFL while helping deliver a Super Bowl victory while in Denver, despite being an undrafted free agent. Not a bad path at all if Dotson should prove to be as effective as Norwood.
These abilities are just what Sean Clifford or Will Levis will need as they gain experience and find their footing as the leader of the offense. Dotson can be the reliable security blanket that is so necessary for any first-year starting quarterback. Now that he’s set to enter the season as a starter with a year under his belt, it’s safe to say we can expect big things from Dotson as Penn State’s offense enters a new era.