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The Penn State coaching staff knows it needs another young man to step up as a legitimate receiver option if the team is going to bounce back from their lackluster 4-5 record last year. The Nittany Lions currently have two solid options in the passing game but will certainly need more to contend for a B1G title.
Senior standout receiver Jahan Dotson may be poised to have an All-American season. With 30 career college games under his belt, Dotson ranks 13th all-time at Penn State in career receiving touchdowns (13) and is 17th in receiving yards (1,575). Last year, he tallied 884 yards in just nine games.
Sophomore receiver Parker Washington started all nine games last season as a freshman, recording at least one catch in each contest, and even setting a true freshman single-game record with nine catches in the Michigan win. For his efforts, he was awarded second team All-American honors, and led all B1G freshmen receivers in yards, receptions, and touchdowns.
In many ways, Washington unexpectedly stepping up last year to become a legitimate threat made life easier on Dotson, who had started attracting extra coverage, especially after the injury to all-American tight end Pat Freiermuth (now with the Steelers). But who is going to step up next and turn this talented corps into a powerhouse passing game?
Sophomore KeAndre Lambert-Smith showed flashes of brilliance last year with 15 receptions for 138 yards. Receivers coach Taylor Stubblefield, a standout himself at Purdue, hopes Lambert-Smith can grow similarly to Dotson.
“He’s had some moments this fall camp where he’s done a tremendous job of, I guess, having that light come on,” Stubblefield said. “Now he’s saying to himself, ‘You know what, OK, I might not have executed the way I needed to execute. I’m not going to let that get me down, and you know what, let’s get this next play.’ So he would be one that I think is moving in that direction.”
Daniel George and Cam Sullivan-Brown are also among a group of returning players seeking more playing time. As far as incoming freshmen, Liam Clifford and Harrison Wallace are both looking to come in and replicate Washington’s early success.
Clifford is the younger brother of starting quarterback Sean Clifford. The rising freshman set records for touchdowns (30), catches (166), receiving yards (2,538) during his high school career in Cincinnati.
“Liam is a very focused young man who works his tail off,” Stubblefield said. “But you’ve got to learn a foreign language with our offense. The faster you pick up the offense, the sooner you know what to do. Then once you know what to do, we can work on how you do it. We’re still in that process.”
FanDuel Sportsbook has Penn State (+900) to win the B1G, and their season win total set at 9, with juice trending under. Keep an eye on their receiver corps early in the season. If the ball is moving around nicely among all of the receivers, then the team is playing with good chemistry, and should put up a lot of points this fall. Maybe wait a week or two to make a futures investment (win totals will be off the board by then, but championship odds will remain live all season). Ohio State will be heavily favored for everything this season, but they’re certainly no ‘sure thing,’ especially with the youth at quarterback. Penn State could be a frisky live dog in some spots.
Football is so close!
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