UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Last weekend, Penn State coach James Franklin said he went around the room in a team meeting and asked his players how much better they were compared to last year.
Every player thinks they are better, obviously, and they should be strictly from a maturation perspective.
Sophomore wide receiver Jahan Dotson’s response to the question was profound enough to stick with Franklin. So when the coach was asked Tuesday about Dotson’s development, he told the story.
“I said, ‘Jahan, how much better are you going to be this year compared to last year?’ ” Franklin said. “He was saying he went back and watched tape from his first couple of months here, and he was like, ‘It’s embarrassing.’ ”
For what it’s worth, Dotson looks like a different guy already.
He estimates he was around 158 pounds back then. Now he is 175 pounds.
Dotson’s development doesn’t stop there, though. Over the 10-minute span in which he fielded questions from the media, he mentioned improving his hands with jug-machine workouts, improving his hands to get separation on routes and improving his regiment to stay as healthy as possible throughout the season.
So, with all this improvement, what is the end goal for Dotson? What would a successful season look like for him?
“Just being the best teammate possible,” Dotson said. “I’m a big team-player guy. So whatever I have to do to get the win at the end of the day and just making sure my teammates have success on the field.”
That answer is a bit cliche, but it also points to what the Nittany Lions will probably require of him this season.
In the presumed starting receiving group, Penn State has sophomore KJ Hamler, the quick, shifty, primarily slot receiver who led the team in receiving yards last season. Then there’s redshirt freshman Justin Shorter, a 6-foot-4, rangy receiver who figures to man the outside.
Dotson, on the other hand, will likely need to be something in between that. He said he doesn’t have a problem with that.
“The thing about me, I can kind of do both,” Dotson said. “In the slot, you have a lot more space to do a lot more things. So I just feel like, you have a two-way go on every route. On the outside, you’re kind of limited, because you have the sideline as another defender. But I kinda use that to my advantage, and I get low, and I’m really able to move my body really well.”
Dotson has already shown flashes of what he is capable of, especially at the end of last season. After not recording a catch in the first six games, and not even playing in five of those six, Dotson finished the year with 13 catches for 203 yards. He started Penn State’s final four games, including against Rutgers, when he notched four catches for 58 yards.
With that season trajectory, maybe it shouldn’t be surprising that Dotson and Franklin believe he has made even more leaps and bounds. They also believe that there’s even more progress to be made.