Over the next week leading into Penn State’s season opener at Indiana on Oct. 24, we’ll take a look at the biggest storyline at each position. Today, we look at the receiving corps.

Jahan Dotson runs in the open field

Penn State’s Jahan Dotson runs away from Wisconsin’s Deron Harrell in State College on Nov. 10, 2018. (AP Photo/Chris Knight)

Generally speaking, we’ll be talking about an experienced Penn State football team looking to open the season in less than two weeks. They return their starting quarterback, their top three running backs, a star tight end and six players along the offensive line who have started a game.

The Nittany Lions’ receiving corps doesn’t have the luxury of having been there and done that.

Junior Jahan Dotson is the only returning starter, and while he has been a steady contributor to the offense over his first two seasons, the players looking to help him form a crew that will at the very least not harm the offense’s chances of being championship caliber have not been as steady,

Sophomore Daniel George struggled with drops last season. Junior Cam Sullivan-Brown has had to fight through injuries. And as far as experience goes, that’s pretty much all these Nittany Lions will have.

“People look at us as, I guess you can say, the weaker link on the offense or the team as a whole,” Dotson said. “That just pushes guys every day to come out and try to be better and prove people wrong. It starts with proving yourself every day.”

This is not a group devoid of talent, for sure. Dotson and George were four-star recruits. So are two true freshmen — Texas high school standout Parker Washington and Ke’Andre Lambert-Smith — and TJ Jones, a redshirt freshman from Florida whose ability to attack the ball in one-on-one situations has drawn praise from defenders.

The three starters, at least in the first week, likely will come from that group, and Sullivan-Brown will push for a consistent role, as well.

But to the veterans, the most important thing to look for early on isn’t one or two players breaking out; it’s the continuity of the group as a whole that will push the offense over the top.

George said the trick is going to be developing a personality as a unit, finding a rhythm as a whole and forming a bond with quarterback Sean Clifford that makes each of them as reliable a target in new offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca’s scheme.

Problem is, developing that personality takes the experience they don’t have. In fact, they’re only now starting to see it develop.

“I think it just comes organically, and obviously, not being all together for a long period of time doesn’t help that,” Sullivan-Brown said. “But I think as we started to practice more as a unit and we started to grow together, it did just grow organically into what type of receiver group we want to be. I think it’s growing into that right now.”

The depth





Isaac Lutz

Norval Black

Daniel George

Johnny Crise

Benjamin Wilson

Cam Sullivan-Brown

Henry Fessler

Jaden Dottin

Jahan Dotson

TJ Jones

Justin Weller

Malik Meiga

KeAdnre Lambert-Smith

Parker Washington


Newcomer to watch

KeAndre Lambert-Smith

WR KeAndre Lambert-Smith

Washington can easily wind up being the most targeted of the freshmen, but KeAndre Lambert-Smith might be the receiver the coaching staff is counting on being a big contributor most this season.

Washington has tremendous hands and runs crisp routes, but Lambert-Smith is a bona-fide game-breaker, and he’s likely the best hope to replace the deep threat lost with KJ Hamler’s departure to the NFL and Dan Chisena’s graduation.

“Those guys have been playing phenomenal,” Dotson said. “They’re coming to practice every day feeling like they have something to prove to everyone, like they have a chip on their shoulder. I love the way those guys are coming to practice, playing and competing. That’s one big thing about those two. They love to compete. That’s what we need in our room right now. They just want to get better with everything. They’re willing to listen. They’re coachable. They’re two great guys to have.”

Numbers game

27Dotson had 27 catches last season. The rest of Penn State’s returning receivers combined for 19.

Player who needs to shine…

Jahan Dotson

WR Jahan Dotson

Here, we go with Dotson. Putting the star tag on Lambert-Smith before he has even played a game is a bit unfair, and while they’ve both shown flashes of being productive, George and Sullivan-Brown have never done it consistently. It seems more likely that Dotson will have to step up his game a few notches and be the clear No. 1 in this group — especially early in the season.

If he can’t develop into a high-volume receiver for the Nittany Lions, there’s no other obvious candidate to do so. Hard to image this offense being one that contends if Dotson doesn’t have a big season.