Penn State began the 2020 season uncertain about its group of wide receivers but soon identified the constant: Jahan Dotson.
Now, with Dotson returning to lead the room again in 2021, the offense has a flagship player around whom to continue building. The All-Big Ten receiver announced in January that he will play another season at Penn State rather than enter the NFL draft, giving new coordinator Mike Yurcich and second-year position coach Taylor Stubblefield a needed big-play driver.
Head coach James Franklin underscored that recently, noting that he had "very direct, honest, transparent conversations" with Dotson and his parents about the decision.
"We’re excited about Jahan being back," Franklin said. "Obviously there were a lot of question marks at that position coming into the season, and obviously with Jahan coming back, and more of the production coming back, there are less question marks going into this season at that position."
Dotson returns as Penn State's most experienced offensive player, having made 26 career starts and having caught a pass in 29 consecutive games. Further, he is the team's most explosive player, with five career touchdown catches of 60+ yards. Dotson made four of them last season, including two against Illinois in the season finale.
As a result, Fox Sports pegged Dotson among the nation's most exciting players to watch, along with fellow Big Ten receivers Chris Olave (Ohio State) and Ty Fryfogle (Indiana).
Dotson told The Morning Call newspaper that he's returning to Penn State with "unfinished business," something he mentioned last season as well. After the season, Dotson said that 2020 taught him that "I can make things happen," a major step in his development.
Franklin often had noted Dotson's catch skills but wanted the receiver, and his offense in general, to recapture its big-play strike ability. Now, Dotson is there.
"I have big-play capability, and my confidence is at an all-time high right now," Dotson said in December. "Every time I touch the ball I can make something happen."
Beyond Dotson, Penn State developed two important young receivers in Parker Washington and KeAndre Lambert-Smith but remain thin on experience beyond them. All three are vital to Penn State's 2021 offense. Dotson will lead them.
"There are a number of guys who we're going to need to step," Franklin said. "We need to have a two-deep at the receiver position that we feel good about and try to get as many of those guys involved as we possibly can. So we'll see how that all plays out, but I do think having Jahan back and the decision that he made was really important."
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