When the head coach is comparing you to Steve Smith and DeSean Jackson, the bar is set high.
That was the case with Jahan Dotson, which already has fans excited. But let's be clear: Dotson is a good football player, but he is not Jackson or Smith. He's his own player, with a skillset that is unique to him.
In the film break down of Jahan, Coach Rivera was able to point out some of the reasons why he felt those comparisons were justified.
In the first half of my discussion with Coach, we went over Dotson' ability in making contested catches. In the second half, Coach breaks down Dotson's route running ability, specifically his ability to use stems.
The term "stem" refers to the portion of the route before the cut. If the player is running a 10-yard in-cut, the stem of the route is the 10 yards leading to the break. Coach points out how Dotson uses his patience and high-level understanding of stems to create separation that should translate to the next level.
In clip four, Coach talks about Dotson's stem on a post route and how it helps him create space, allowing him to win. "Watch his release." Coach said. "[Dotson] pushes himself out a little bit, which [widens the corner]. [Jahan] has the angle once he makes the cut, he has the speed to separate [like] DeSean Jackson."
What coach is describing -- the ability to manipulate defenders with your stem -- is something that most fans and even good coaches miss.
The defense is playing a version of quarters with a man principle. Dotson does an excellent job of recognizing the coverage based on the corner's alignment. The corner is shaded to Jahan's outside half, telling Dotson that the coverage help is to the inside. The corner is trying to push Dotson towards that help with his pre-snap alignment.
It is extremely hard to see on the TV copy.
I didn't notice it until Coach pointed it out, but Dotson stems, or attacks, the corner's outside leverage, forcing the him to widen towards the sideline. This stem creates a larger window for Dotson on the post. Penn State is running a quarters beater, so the concept is a major factor in getting him open, but the stem shows an understanding of coverage and how best to manipulate it.
In clip five, Dotson is running a "slant and go" from the slot. Coach describes what makes it special, "What you like about it is that he sells like he is coming across the formation."
Coach then describes the defensive back's leverage. The defensive back is shaded inside with his hips opened to the sideline. The safety is trying to give Dotson a "one-way go," taking away any inside route. Inexperienced route runners will rush this route and worry about getting stuck inside of the defender.
Dotson shows his savvy: "[Jahan] knows that by taking the extra step [the safety] will cross [his feet]," Coach said, "and as soon as [Jahan] sees him crossing, that is when he sticks and goes vertical."
Dotson shows the most important trait for a route runner, and Coach recognizes it, too. "He doesn't get anxious, stayed very patient, solid to the inside and he knows as soon as those hips flip… he could cross him."
Clip six might be my personal favorite of the cutup. It features Dotson as a post receiver against a cover 3 defense. The corners and the single safety are dividing the back end of the defense into thirds. Like most cover 3 looks, the safety has his hips open to the ball with the effort of forcing Dotson to his help, which in this case is the middle field safety wearing No. 3 in the clip.
It would be easy for Dotson to take an inside release, let the safety squeeze him and compress the throwing window for the quarterback.
Coach explains why that doesn't happen. "See when [Jahan and the corner] are even, when they are stacked in an even position, [the corner] is going to cut [Jahan] off … If he goes to run the post, where is [the corner] going to be? He is going to be in [Jahan's] hip pocket. He can sell it like he is going to the seven [route]. This guy has to turn and react…and guess what happens? He gets inside where he wanted to go all along."
The route looks simple but shows tremendous maturity and the football intelligence required to understand the coverage and the patience to push the route vertically against bad leverage.
Jahan might not be Smith or Jackson, but he has enough qualities of those great players for me to believe he's going to be a solid pro.