Season Preview: Wide Receivers

By Michael Stanley on October 7, 2020 at 8:30 am
Sep 7, 2019; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions wide receiver Jahan Dotson (5) makes a catch during the fourth quarter against the Buffalo Bulls at Beaver Stadium. Penn State defeated Buffalo 45-13. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports
© Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports
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Update 3:40 p.m. 10/7: John Dunmore has withdrawn from Penn State and is no longer part of the team.

Last Year

Going into 2019, everyone knew there was a star in the receiver room at Penn State - KJ Hamler. Everyone in the country knew that aside from tight end Pat Freiermuth, Hamler would be Sean Clifford's safety blanket for every clutch play and every deep ball. He was far and away the most clutch, talented, and productive receiver at Penn State in 2019.

That came with its drawbacks, however. At times, Clifford's reliance on Hamler became a shackle to the Penn State offense. When No. 1 wasn't open, Clifford was left looking like a deer in headlights. Heading into the season, Jahan Dotson was expected to take a big step and be a great No. 2 receiver, but he didn't take as big of a step, and was stuck being not much more than a steady receiver with solid hands. There wasn't much of anything after Hamler and Dotson.

The group is also on its fourth position coach in as many seasons. Former Miami assistant, and Big Ten great Taylor Stubblefield joins the staff after Gerad Parker was named the offensive coordinator at West Virginia. It was a surprising change for Parker, who spent just one season in Happy Valley. However, the arrival of Stubblefield, known as a technician type of coach, could be just what a talented but unproven group needs to take the next step.

The Starters

No. 5 Jahan Dotson (Jr./Jr., 5'11, 183 lbs)

No. 11 Daniel George (Jr./So., 6'2, 210 lbs)

No. 6 Cam Sullivan-Brown (Sr./Jr., 6'0, 192 lbs)

The leading returning receiver, Dotson, is expected to slide inside and take over the slot position. Dotson has proven to be an incredibly consistent receiver and showed spurts of being much more than that. He just hasn't been able to get over the hump of the "possession receiver" label. He'll be a tremendous outlet for Clifford to always have a reliable set of hands. Given his experience outside, it would not be a surprise to see him slide out of the slot at times.

Daniel George is as much of a workout warrior as there is in the program. Physically and athletically, George looks like a superstar. He needs to get mental and technical side up to par. He needs to get better at running routes and having more consistent hands. The third spot is not set, but we'll go with the veteran Cam Sullivan-Brown. Now healthy, the fourth-year junior provides some veteran experience in a room looking for just that.

The Backups

No. 8 John Dunmore (So./Fr., 6'1, 190 lbs)

No. 10 TJ Jones (So./ Fr., 6'1, 204 lbs)

No. 13 Keandre Lambert-Smith (Fr./Fr., 6'1, 185 lbs)

No. 18 Parker Washington (Fr./Fr., 5'10, 203 lbs)

It's not crazy to say that the biggest potential and most excitement comes from the two freshmen mentioned above. Lambert-Smith and Washington have to prove that they're prepared for the physicality of Big Ten football, but they arguably have the most talent of the group. Washington was incredibly productive against some of the best competition in Texas high school football and is physically ready for college, while Lambert-Smith has tested as having some of the best change-of-direction and explosiveness in the entire program.

Dunmore is talented but he needs to put it together on and off the field as his high school production hasn't translated to college yet. He still only carries freshman eligibility so his timeline isn't behind, but he appears to have ground to make up to contribute much this season.

Fellow Floridian T.J. Jones is in much the same boat as Dunmore, but that was to be expected. He has a lot fo physical gifts, but it was always going to take some time to put them all together. The "free" year of eligibility figures to benefit both significantly.

The Reserves

No. 19 Jaden Dottin (Fr./Fr., 6'2, 183 lbs.)

No. 29 Henry Fessler (Jr./So., 5'10, 186 lbs.)

No. 80 Malick Meiga (Fr./Fr., 6'4, 195 lbs.)

No. 80 Justin Weller (Sr./Jr., 6'0, 189 lbs.)

No. 82 Cameron Pica (Sr./Jr., 6'2, 216 lbs.)

No. 83 Johnny Crise (Fr./Fr., 6'4, 185 lbs.)

No. 84 Benjamin Wilson (Sr./Sr., 6'2, 208 lbs.)

No. 85 Isaac Lutz (Grad/Sr., 5'11, 197 lbs.)

No. 88 Norval Black (Jr./Jr., 6'1, 160 lbs.)

The rest of the group is made up of the remaining members of a deep group of 2020 recruits, and run-ons. Dottin and Meiga have tons of potential, but both will need some time to figure out how to tap into it. JUCO transfer Norval Black could provide some immediate help, but the uncounted year of eligibility this season figures to benefit him, as he looks to add some strength to his athletic 6'1 frame.

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