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Penn State Football WR Q&A: Four Downs with Jahan Dotson & Justin Shorter

by on August 08, 2019 6:00 PM

Is it Jahan Dotson and Justin Shorter?

Or, is Justin Shorter and Jahan Dotson?

You decide. Some background:

They were born only 26 days and 43 miles apart. (Dotson on March 22, 2000, in Newark, N.J., and Shorter on April 17, 2000, in Princeton, N.J.)

Both entered Penn State as heralded receivers; Shorter from New Jersey as a 5-star, Dotson from the Lehigh Valley as a 4-star.

They committed to Dear Old State 501 days apart: Shorter was the first commit of the 2018 Class, verballing on August 6, 2016. Dotson was the third-last, flipping from UCLA on the first-ever early signing day, December 20, 2017.

Dotson wears No. 5 and Shorter is No. 6.

At 6-4 and 235 pounds, Shorter is five inches taller and 60 (!) pounds heavier.

With 13 grabs for 203 yards, Dotson had a dozen more catches than Shorter in 2019. Dotson started four games, played in eight. Shorter’s game appearances were shorter by half that.

Shorter was slowed by injury in the early part of the 2018 season. Dotson was not. Thus, eligibility-wise, Dotson is a sophomore and Shorter is still a freshman.

For the next two seasons — at least — they are expected to catch a Lion’s share of passes. Veteran K.J. Hamler rules the WR room, but his stay could be shorter than usual; don’t be surprised if he declares for the NFL Draft after this season.

Hamler, Dotson and Shorter are long on potential. The last triumvirate of Penn State receivers with potential like this actually reached that potential — and more. Lest we forget, they set a very high bar. And some context.

From 2005-2008, Nittany Lion receivers Deon Butler, Jordan Norwood and Derrick Williams caught a combined 498 passes for 6,529 yards and 44 TD receptions. Only once in their combined 12 playing seasons at Penn State did any of the three have less than 32 receptions.

More importantly, those wideouts — paired with a stout defense; sound familiar? — were key components of a Penn State squad that went 40-11, with a triple-overtime Orange Bowl victory, a Rose Bowl appearance, a share of two Big Ten titles, a 39-point scoring average in 2008, and No. 3 and No. 8 rankings.

That’s quite a legacy.

What do Dotson and Shorter — or, is it Shorter and Dotson? — have to say about it all? We interviewed them in tandem last Saturday, during media day. Their responses: 


What was the No. 1 lesson you learned last season?

DOTSON: ”The one thing I learned from playing was the speed of the game. I think it’s the biggest jump you can make in all of sports. Everything comes at you so fast, everyone is so much faster. It’s kind of like the field shrinks. By the end of the year, I felt like I had a sense of when and how everything was going to happen. I adapted to it pretty quickly, mostly through repetitions. Getting more reps and more reps.”

SHORTER: ”Patience, I would definitely say patience. I was just so eager to get out there — for the first practice, the first game. I wanted to dominate my first time out there. But you have to learn to be patient. You have to trust the process, put in your homework and trust the coaches. That’s the biggest thing. I was a little banged up (to start the season). Watching what Han did in games and talking to him and hearing what he saw, that helped. Hopefully, this year that will work for me.”


What’s your assessment of the quarterbacks, Sean Clifford and Will Levis?

DOTSON on CLIFFORD: ”He’s a tremendous leader. The biggest thing is that I think he has all the confidence in the world that we’re going to have a great season. That’s huge, for your quarterback — knowing that he has confidence in you and confidence in the whole team. I feel like that’s going to lead to a big year.”

SHORTER ON WILL LEVIS: ”Strong arm. Obviously, a strong arm. Smart guy. Every time that we throw, I could be standing five yards from him and he’s beaming the ball at me. His arm and the way he throws the ball are definitely different than any quarterback I’ve ever thrown with — or seen. Hopefully, he gets in there a little bit and helps this team.”


How good can this receiving corps be?

DOTSON: ”We have all the talent in the world, with me, Justin, Dan (Chisena), Mac (Hippenhammer), KJ (Hamler). We’re guys who can make plays out of nothing, to be honest. As long as we get the chances and get on the field and get some opportunities, we can make the most of it.

SHORTER: ”We all trust in (first-year wide receivers) coach (Gerad) Parker. Coach Parker is a great guy, who just came in here. He’s helped the wideout room grow as men and as players in general. So, hopefully this year we’re going to be able to get out there and just play and dominate."


Give me a scouting report on the other guy.

DOTSON: "Justin has all the intangibles to be great, honestly. He has the size and speed. But the biggest thing is that he’s a competitor. He wants to be the greatest. He wants to be the best. That’s huge. A lot of people don’t have that."

And Justin’s weakness?

(A 24-second pause by Dotson…)

DOTSON: ”Honestly, he’s big, so playing like a little guy and like a slot is something he has to work on, because he’s so big. It’s kind of harder for him to lower himself like I can, because I’m smaller.”

SHORTER: ”Han is fast, quick, great hands. He never drops a ball. Of all the times we’ve thrown over the summer, I might have seen him drop one ball the entire time. His speed is crazy. He can definitely take off on the outside. He’s smart. He can read coverages; he knows all his plays.

”His weakness? Maybe strength a little bit. I feel like we have to get Han back in the weight room and lift with me a little bit, get him a little bulky.


What are your goals for 2019?

DOTSON: ”Definitely to be All-Big Ten and to get to the College Football Playoffs.”

SHORTER: ”To be All-Big Ten and be Big Ten Freshman of the Year, because I was a redshirt last year, plus come out every game and make plays to help the team win.”

Mike Poorman has covered Penn State football since 1979, and for since the 2009 season. His column appears on Mondays and Fridays. Follow him on Twitter at His views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State University.
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