Jahan Dotson made several spectacular plays last season for Penn State when he was one of the top receivers in the Big Ten.
It’s the one he didn’t make in 2019 at Minnesota that has haunted him and driven him to elevate his game.
With the Nittany Lions trailing 31-26, Dotson hauled in a pass from Sean Clifford on a deep slant and sprinted into the open field with two defensive backs chasing him before he stumbled and fell at the Minnesota 11 after a 49-yard gain. The Lions failed to score and lost.
“I was kind of cold during the whole game,” Dotson said Tuesday. “I just hadn’t gotten my feet wet. I noticed then that your number could be called at any time in the game and you have to be ready when that moment comes. You gotta step up to the plate.
“Ever since then, I’ve taken the approach that on every single play I’m going out there to score a touchdown and take it all the way. That moment really helped me in my career.”
Dotson led the Big Ten last year with 884 receiving yards and eight touchdown catches. He will be Sean Clifford’s primary target when Penn State opens its season at Wisconsin Saturday at noon (TV-FOX, WEEU-AM/830).
Dotson vowed last winter to become a transcendent player this season. He lowered his speed in the 40-yard dash to a blazing 4.33 seconds, which he hopes gives him added burst.
“That was something I was really focused on getting better going into my last year,” he said. “I remember when KJ (former Penn State receiver KJ Hamler) was here, he never let me live down the Minnesota moment. Getting faster was always something I was trying to prove to everybody.
“I knew I had it in me. It was just about getting the technique right.”
Dotson will face a stiff test right away against Wisconsin’s outstanding secondary, which plays a lot of man-to-man coverage. Badgers cornerback Faion Hicks said last month that he hopes to play against Dotson for much of Saturday’s game.
“That’s what you want,” Dotson said. “You want someone who feels like they’re going to shut you out of your game. That’s just a challenge for me. I just can’t wait for Saturday. We’ve been prepping literally all offseason for this moment and this game.”
Dotson probably will line up with Parker Washington and KeAndre Lambert-Smith, who started last year as freshmen. Although Washington enjoyed a better 2020 with 36 receptions for 489 yards and six touchdowns, Lambert-Smith has impressed Dotson more than any Penn State receiver during camp.
Lambert-Smith started five games last year and made 15 catches for 138 yards.
“He’s been balling,” Dotson said. “I’m excited to see what he’s going to do this year. I know he’s going to have a breakout year. He’s been making a lot of plays and showing more maturity than last year.”
Malick Meiga and Jaden Dottin are two young and talented options. Cam Sullivan-Brown and Daniel George, two veterans who have yet to fulfill their potential, also could see significant time.
“CSB is a guy we’ve been excited about since the day he stepped on campus,” Lions coach James Franklin said. “He’s battled the injury bug. Daniel George is big, strong and athletic.
“Those are two guys who we really need to take that step this year. We think they can. There’s a lot of confidence and a lot of belief in them.”
Franklin also mentioned Wilson grad Justin Weller, a junior who has played in three career games and is looking for a regular role.
“I look at (Justin) Weller a lot like I did Lutz (Berks Catholic grad Isaac Lutz) in the past,” Franklin said. “(He is) a guy who’s been in the program and who’s paid his dues and is reliable and who can make some big-time plays for us.”
The main receiver will, of course, be the 5-11, 184-pound Dotson, who has high hopes for a special season for himself and Penn State. He tied for the national lead last season with four catches of at least 60 yards.
“Jahan has gotten bigger, stronger and more explosive,” Franklin said. “He’s always been silky smooth and fluid with his movements all the way back to high school. He’s just that guy who has tremendous body control and who makes everything look easy.
“Now that he’s stronger and bigger, that has a chance to translate into more explosive plays for us, which is really important.”
Source: Berkshire mont