Penn State Receiving Chart (Auburn): Jahan Dotson and the Tight Ends Dominate the Tiger Secondary

By Nick Polak on September 21, 2021 at 9:00 am
Penn State's Brenton Strange (86) sprints down field for a 40-yard reception in the fourth quarter against Auburn at Beaver Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021, in State College.
Dan Rainville via Imagn Content Services, LLC
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Welcome to the Penn State receiving chart. Every week we'll show you what happened when each receiver was targeted in the most recent game. There may be a few differences here and there from the stat lines you see on ESPN, Sports Reference, or elsewhere, but I'll try to make sure to explain each of those differences below.

As you may have guessed by the beauty that was the passing chart for Sean Clifford, the pass catchers on the Penn State offense also had an outstanding Saturday night performance. Jahan Dotson led the way, as per usual, but the big story was the involvement of the tight ends who had previously been rather quiet to start the 2021 season.

Receiving Chart (Auburn)
Receiver Catch Rate Yards Drops Down (1/2/3/4) TD Hands+ Rating
Jahan Dotson (WR) 10/12 78 - 4/7/1/0 1 151
Brenton Strange (TE) 4/4 71 - 2/2/0/0 1 125
Parker Washington (WR) 8/9 49 1 4/2/3/0 - 114
Theo Johnson (TE) 1/1 37 - 1/0/0/0 - 150
KeAndre Lambert-Smith (WR) 4/5 27 - 1/3/1/0 - 125
Tyler Warren (TE) 1/1 22 - 0/1/0/0 - 150
John Lovett (RB) 1/1 18 - 0/1/0/0 - 150

Hands+ Rating is explained below.

The Tight Ends Get In on the Fun

Through the first two games of the season, Penn State ran a good number of plays with two, and even three, tight ends on the field at the same time. However, that playing time wasn't translating into box score production. That's not to say they weren't contributing – they've been great blockers and decoys all season long – but it felt like there was something bubbling under the surface with respect to their output.

Well, Saturday sure changed that discussion. Brenton Strange, Theo Johnson, and Tyler Warren combined for 6 catches, 130 yards, and 1 touchdown. Mike Yurcich flipped the story of the game tape and began using his wide receivers as decoys for his tight ends and it worked brilliantly. Not only that, but he did things like this.

With Caedan Wallace split out to the right, but still as an ineligible receiver (he was covered up by Lambert-Smith and made sure he didn't stray downfield), Strange was able to easily leak into the middle of the unsuspecting defense for the easy completion. Genius.

Dotson and Washington Feast Over the Middle

The one thing that we did not see much of in this game were the deep shots, but that was more a function of the game flow than the game plan, it seemed. Auburn was often selling out to stop Noah Cain and company on the ground, which left plenty of uncontested throws for Clifford in the middle of the field. As you might expect, the two leading pass-catchers on the team took advantage of that.

Neither one had a record-setting day in the box score, but both were key in keeping the chains moving for the Nittany Lions all night.

The Long Con

Like we discussed above, Saturday night saw Yurcich flip his normal script on its head a few times, mostly with the tight ends. Another example of this was the wonderful double pass from Dotson to Warren for a 22-yard gain.

The broadcast knew that Dotson was eligible to throw the ball right away, as did most people watching the game. However, this wasn't a situation of bringing in a gadget player to run an easy-to-snuff-out, telegraphed play. Dotson has been on the receiving end of throws like this constantly through three weeks, so the defense had to respect the threat of him running with the ball there. Another great play call.

The Drops

Once again, only one drop this week, this one by Parker Washington on a bubble screen. The throw looked to be fine, and it was likely just a case of Washington picking his head up early.

Receiving Chart (Season)
Receiver Catch Rate Yards Drops Down (1/2/3/4) TD Hands+ Rating
Jahan Dotson (WR) 20/29 245 - 13/14/2/0 3 143
Parker Washington (WR) 18/21 153 1 7/8/6/0 - 125
KeAndre Lambert-Smith (WR) 9/16 111 2 5/6/4/1 - 101
Brenton Strange (TE) 5/7 81 1 4/2/1/0 1 107
Theo Johnson (TE) 3/5 66 - 4/0/1/0 - 133
Noah Cain (RB) 8/10 57 - 2/6/2/0 - 123
Keyvone Lee (RB) 1/1 24 - 1/0/0/0 - 150
Tyler Warren (TE) 1/1 22 - 0/1/0/0 - 150
John Lovett (RB) 1/1 18 - 0/1/0/0 - 150
Cam Sullivan-Brown (WR) 1/1 16 - 0/1/0/0 - 180
Devyn Ford (RB) 1/1 6 - 1/0/0/0 - 180
Marquis Wilson (WR) 1/1 3 - 0/1/0/0 - 180

Hands+ Rating Explained

The Hands+ Rating is a Roar Lions Roar-created statistic designed to rate a receiver's hands. It both rewards players for making catches with a higher degree of difficulty and punishes players for missing easier catches on a variable scale. Passes that are deemed uncatchable are also eliminated from the equation.

For reference, a player with a Hands+ Rating of 100 is exactly average – they've made every catch they're supposed to make, nothing more, nothing less. Above 100 is better, below 100 is worse.

It's worth noting that this stat starts to become a more reliable reflection of a player's production once they accumulate at least 10 targets.

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