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Neil Rudel on Penn State football: PSU wide receiver Jahan Dotson has caught Iowa’s attention

The biggest subplot of Penn State’s game within the game (of the year, so far) at Iowa will be Jahan Dotson.

The standout receiver has been outstanding, easily the biggest difference maker fueling the Nittany Lions’ resurgence from their nightmare season of 2020.

Dotson’s 35 receptions (without a drop) and six touchdowns lead the Big Ten, and he’s expected to be a main focus of Iowa’s defensive game plan today in a Top 5 battle of unbeatens (Iowa No. 3, PSU No. 4) at Kinnick Stadium (4 p.m. FOX).

Dotson has caught everything, including high passes for touchdowns, returned punts, blocked downfield and even completed a pair of passes.

Defenses typically identify the opposition’s top player and design a scheme that includes double-teaming with the understanding that someone else is going to have to beat them.

“There’s a lot of really good athletes out there, but he’s a football player, just the way he does everything,” Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz said. “I’ve got to think the pro guys watching him really like him because he’s a really decisive player.”

In fact, NFL draft guru Mel Kiper has rated Dotson in his top 10 prospects for the 2022 draft and the best senior receiver available.

“He’s got elite ball skills, maybe some of the best ball skills I’ve been around,” James Franklin said. “He is smooth and fluid. It doesn’t look like he’s running sometimes, but no one can catch him.”

Dotson has been climbing up the Penn State career receiving charts and earning his place among the greats. His two touchdowns last week gave him 19 for his career, passing Allen Robinson, Chris Godwin and DaeSean Hamilton – all current NFL players.

He’s currently fourth all-time among PSU receivers in TDs, trailing only Deon Butler (22), Kenny Jackson (25) and the Lions’ best receiver ever, career leader Bobby Engram (31).

Dotson spent some time with ABC’s Todd Blackledge last week. Blackledge and Kenny Jackson held the Lions’ QB-receiver touchdown record with 17 before Dotson and Sean Clifford surpassed it against the Hoosiers.

“We’ve played good football here for a long time,” Franklin said. “When you can break a record that hasn’t been done for a long time, that’s saying something.”

Blackledge said the 184-pound Dotson “plays stronger than he looks” and likened him to DeVonta Smith, who won the 2020 Heisman Trophy for Alabama and was the Philadelphia Eagles’ first-round draft pick.

Dotson is trying to keep his success, accolades and projections in perspective.

“I don’t really know about all the records,” he said. “It’s pretty cool when you break one. I’m just having fun.”

Dotson has developed great chemistry with Clifford, who is also climbing the PSU career charts and whose season completion percentage of 67.3 is the school’s best all-time through five games.

Clifford said he and Dotson “hang out” together a lot, watching film and building a bond similar to what Clifford had with K.J. Hamler.

“We have full trust in each other,” Dotson said. “We have a very special group here — special players and a bond that you only get once in a lifetime. This team is so close. We’re having fun, and it translates to the field.”

Penn State receivers take pride in advancing to the next level. There are currently five Lions – Robinson, Godwin, Hamilton, Hamler and Dan Chisena – on NFL rosters.

Hamilton, the Lions’ all-time receptions leader with 214 – at 127, Dotson is 10th – also wore the No. 5 and has been in touch with Dotson.

“I just talked to him,” Dotson, an Allentown native who grew up not far from Saquon Barkley, said. “He’s telling me to keep going, (that I’m), pretty much making history. I’m just trying to follow in his footsteps and wear the legacy of No. 5.”

He’s wearing it well.

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