When scouting prospects, Penn State receivers coach Gerad Parker is drawn to those who play basketball. He likes receivers who can handle the ball above their heads and get to the rim.
So naturally, Jahan Dotson made a strong first impression on his new position coach.
“Jahan has an unbelievable feel for his body,” Parker said. “He does a great job of being very fluid, very loose. You could almost use the word silky. He knows his body and he can control it.”
Now Dotson, a Nazareth High graduate entering his sophomore season at Penn State, is trying to make that body stronger and sturdier to withstand a Big Ten season. Dotson was among Penn State’s most reliable receivers last year, starting four games and converting 67% of his receptions into first downs. He finished with 13 receptions for 203 yards, averaging 15.6 yards per catch.
Head coach James Franklin even compared Dotson to Jerry Rice.
But Franklin said that he wanted Dotson to become more physical, developing what the coach called a “Big Ten body.” Dotson pursued that over the winter, adding size to go from a 155-pound Nazareth senior to a 180-pound Penn State receiver.
“If someone’s getting up at 7 a.m., I want to get up at 6:30; I’m always trying to one-up someone,” Dotson said this spring. “I’m at a disadvantage already being smaller than everyone. So I’m going to one-up them when I get the chance.”
As Dotson hits the squats harder, teammates say he is poised for a breakout sophomore season.
“I just like how he takes the game on," fellow receiver Justin Shorter said. "He has the same mindset, same face, same stance. At practice, if he has a drop, he would just come back straight-faced and then catch the ball the next play. I think he’s going to be really, really good for us this year.”
Parker, who came to Penn State from Duke in January, professed his love recently for basketball-playing receivers. Dotson certainly fits that description. He was an all-area basketball player at Nazareth known for gliding across the court.
Parker loves that. It shows up in Dotson’s ability to catch passes in tight quarters and beat defenders downfield.
Now, Parker wants to see the receiver do more than glide. Like Franklin, Parker wants Dotson to grow into a more physical player.
“A lot of what we talked about with Jahan is closing the last 10 percent of his game,” Parker said. “If he learns how to close that last 10 percent, I really think everybody here is going to be really, really, really impressed with who he can become.”