Penn State wide receiver Jahan Dotson is one of the top returning receivers in college football and he gave proof of that against the Badgers. While there was no scoring in the first half, that should not have been the case. In the second quarter Dotson burned Wisconsin coverage to get wide open for an 87-yard touchdown but quarterback Sean Clifford missed the throw. Throughout the first half Clifford and Penn State did a terrible job of getting the ball into Dotson’s hands.
Things changed in the third quarter as Dotson was open again, but a cornerback knocked him to the turf and drew a pass interference. The very next play Dotson got wide open for a 49-yard touchdown as Wisconsin had blown zone coverage and forgot to cover the speedster. This time Clifford didn’t miss and Dotson coasted in with his first touchdown of the year.
Late in the third quarter Dotson ran a great route again to get wide open running deep down the field. It should have been a 70-yard touchdown but Clifford missed the throw again.
Early in the fourth quarter Dotson ran by the Badgers safety and was wide open for a 42-yard completion. Dotson had to slow up and wait for the ball and if the pass hit him in stride it would have been a touchdown of over 60 yards. The state line of five receptions for 102 yards and a touchdown does not tell the story as Dotson was phenomenal. If Clifford were more capable, Dotson would have had a game of 250-300 yards receiving with three or four touchdowns.
For the NFL, Dotson is an interesting prospect. While he has game breaking speed, Dotson is also strong for his size and wins on contested catches. Dotson is an ultrafast wide out that stretches defenses vertically and is a threat to score on any reception. This tape is going to help his draft grade.
Wisconsin tight end Jake Ferguson had a strong start to the 2021 season. Late in the first quarter Ferguson made a really nice play breaking three or four tackles on a short reception to get a good gain and set up a first down conversion for the Badgers. During the first half Ferguson made a handful of short catches on quick outs.
In the third quarter Ferguson had a great catch with an expected pass that tipped off his finger tips and then he controlled the deflection to dive ahead and set up a first-round and goal at the one. The next play Ferguson had a good run block to help open the hole for a game tying touchdown. He totaled nine receptions for 52 yards against Penn State.
This tape will help Ferguson as he showed the ability to be a contributing receiver and blocker. Ferguson is not overwhelming athletically with rare speed or agility as a receiver, or strength as a run blocker, but he is a solid well-rounded player in both phases.
On NFL team’s preseason watch list, Penn State linebacker Brandon Smith had the highest grade of any non pass rushing linebacker. In the shortened 2020 season, Smith was all over the field and did an excellent job as the replacement for Micah Parsons. Smith played well in the season opener making a number of good tackles in the ground game. In the third quarter Smith had an excellent short-yardage stop in the hole on a third-and-1. In zone coverage Smith did well moving in space and running down receivers in the flat to make tackles.
Smith looks like a future three down starter at middle or outside linebacker. He is big, fast, physical, and has quality instincts. With his excellent skill set, Smith has the ability to be a three down starter. It would not surprise this draft analyst if Smith becomes a hot prospect for the 2022 draft.
Penn State left tackle Rasheed Walker is another potential early-round pick but unlike Dotson and Smith, Walker did not look like it versus Wisconsin. Walker had an awful start to the 2021 season. In the first minute of the game Walker had a false start, and a few plays later Walker was late to react to stunt and the tackle that looped around him sacked quarterback Sean Clifford. There were other plays where Walker had poor hand placement and got knocked to the turf after losing his balance to allow pressures on the quarterback. Walker has a good skill set, but he needs to develop his technique and improve significantly in the weeks to come.