On Sept. 1 — for the first time in 1,463 days — Penn State will have a wide receiver not named DaeSean Hamilton donning the No. 5 jersey. But the new guy is making strides in the record-breaker’s absence.
Jahan Dotson, a true freshman who enrolled in late June, has grabbed the attention of his teammates and coaches less than a week into fall camp. The four-star Nazareth prospect turned Nittany Lion is a “very natural, fluid guy,” according to James Franklin. One wideout even compared Dotson to Penn State’s all-time leader in receptions.
“He’s sort of like (Hamilton) in a way,” redshirt junior Juwan Johnson said after Wednesday night’s practice. “He’s wearing No. 5, and his routes are pretty clean. He’s very smooth, very mature, and I’m ready to see him flourish when we get things going.”
Assistant head coach and cornerbacks coach Terry Smith called Dotson “a pleasant surprise.”
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“I don’t know if the offensive guys were surprised, but me as a defensive guy, I was shocked and surprised,” Smith said of the wideout’s progress. “He’s doing a nice job. We’re happy he’s with us.”
Of course, that almost wasn’t the case. Dotson — the No. 6 player in Pennsylvania and No. 36 wideout in the 2018 class, per 247 Sports’ composite rankings — surprisingly flipped from UCLA in December’s early signing period. The 5-foot-11 pass-catcher verbally committed to the Bruins back in Sept. 2017, but a coaching change from Jim Mora to Chip Kelly in the winter threw UCLA’s class through a loop.
So instead of trekking out to the West Coast, Dotson picked a place 180 miles away. And the move is already paying off.
Dotson — who recorded 187 catches, 2,755 receiving yards and 40 touchdowns (all program records) at Nazareth — is a member of a “really advanced” recruiting class, per Franklin. And he’s the one really standing out.
“The game comes easy to him,” Franklin said. “Nothing seems too big for him. He never gets rattled. Consistent hands. Everything’s effortless for him.”