Penn State wideout Jahan Dotson proves he's one of best in nation — again

JON SAUBER
Centre Daily Times (TNS)
Penn State tight end Brenton Strange (86) celebrates his touchdown with Jahan Dotson (5) during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Auburn in State College, Pa., on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021. (AP Photo/Barry Reeger)

Jahan Dotson's teammates can't help but laugh.

The senior wide receiver is one of the most dynamic players in the country and continues to make play after play for the Nittany Lions. He's got jokes for his teammates, including ragging on senior defensive tackle P.J. Mustipher for getting stuffed on a trick play as a runner in Saturday's 28-20 win over Auburn.

"I think he got like half a yard," Dotson said. "... He's been telling me, 'You get the ball in my hands, I'm gonna make a play, I'm gonna take it 60.' He got a half a yard. I don't know what that's about"

But that's not why sophomore running back Noah Cain is laughing.

He's almost in disbelief, as if he doesn't know how to react to his teammates sheer dominance. So he laughs instead, in part, because Cain isn't even surprised anymore.

"He's gonna keep balling for us and keep making plays," Cain said. "... 'Han is one of the hardest workers on our team. I already knew, just from the offseason and how he prepares every day and how he comes to work, I already knew he was gonna be making plays for us on Saturdays."

Dotson's dominance: Dotson's dominance was laughable. He once again established why he's one of the best weapons in the country and opened up the entire Penn State offense in Saturday's White Out victory.

The senior receiver was targeted 12 times by redshirt senior quarterback Sean Clifford, hauling in 10 of those passes for 78 yards and a touchdown. His contributions didn't end there. He also added a completed 22-yard pass to tight end Tyler Warren to pick up a first down and advance into Auburn territory.

That drive ended with one of Penn State's four touchdowns on the day. Dotson said the opportunity was one months in the making.

"That's been in the playbook literally forever," Dotson said. "We scored on it in a scrimmage versus the defense in a scrimmage during fall camp. That play has been in forever. ... I was really excited. They call the play in, I tried not to show any emotions that'd give it away to the defense. But I was so happy they called it. I've been waiting to throw the ball all year."

Auburn well prepared to stop him: While his lone passing attempt caught the Auburn defense off guard, the rest of Dotson's game didn't. The Tigers seemed well prepared to handle the senior receiver throwing several looks at him and scheming their defense to stop him.

That didn't matter to Dotson, who found a way to get the ball time after time in the game. Several passes appeared to be out of reach or heading to a defender, only for Dotson to get his outstretched hands onto the ball and haul in the reception. One play that ended in a touchdown. On another it prevented Auburn from getting an interception.

Dotson, like his teammates said, was locked in. But he didn't act any differently.

"'Han is one of those guys that's real mellow, man. Same personality, same attitude," Cain said. "His work ethic day in and day out, he's just trying to get better. He doesn't really talk too much, he's about his business. That's really all you can ask for."

He's locked in: Dotson said that's because he's so locked in.

"I kinda just have tunnel vision when I'm out here," Dotson said while standing on the Beaver Stadium grass following the game. "This is what I love to do. During the play I don't hear the crowd or anything, I'm kind of just locked in on what I'm doing out there."

The scariest part for opposing defenses when Dotson is locked in may have nothing to do with the production he gets. Rather, it's how it opens up every other aspect of the offense.

Opening up opportunities for his teammates: There were multiple plays where the attention paid to the senior receiver allowed his teammates to go to work. In one instance, it continued a drive that led to a touchdown on a third down. Three plays after Dotson's completed pass, the Nittany Lions lined up on third down in Auburn territory.

Dotson, ever the craftsmen when it comes to route-running, ran a crisp route toward the sideline that attracted both the safety over the top and the cornerback nearby. While he did that, sophomore wide receiver Parker Washington cut inside, where a defender was supposed to be, and caught a pass that resulted in 10 yards and a first down.

Tight end Brenton Strange said Dotson is part of what opens things up and allows players like himself to get open, and geting him going is important to the team's success.

"It's very important," Strange said. "Jahan is a leader on our team. Y'all obviously know Jahan is one of the best receivers in the nation, if not the best receiver in the nation. When Jahan gets going it kind of gives us all a boost."

Among the nation's best: Three games into the season, Dotson is as good as ever, taking another clear step forward as a wide receiver and putting himself in the type of conversations receivers want to be in. Cain said Dotson is a clear top-five wideout in the country.

At this point, and with his performances thus far, you'd be hard pressed to name any receiver who has played better.