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Three season-defining questions for Penn State's receivers: Entrance Exam

The Penn State Nittany Lions football season begins in less than a month, and Blue-White Illustrated is breaking down the key questions facing each Penn State position group in its new series, Entrance Exam, continuing on the offensive side of the ball with Penn State's wide receivers.

Check out previous Entrance Exam stories:

Safeties

Cornerbacks

Linebackers

Defensive Line

Offensive Line

Tight Ends

1. Can Penn State football find a productive third option at WR?

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Penn State football entered the 2020 season with an enormous question mark at the wide receiver position, and emerged from it with almost all of those questions answered. Jahan Dotson broke out to become one of the best wideouts in the Big Ten — if not the country — and true freshman Parker Washington proved a fantastic second option.

However, Penn State didn't nail down a consistent third option at receiver, and comes into 2021 with that standing out as a significant question mark.

Another true freshman — KeAndre Lambert-Smith — filled that role most effectively last season, but his stat line of 15 receptions for 138 yards was hardly enough to lock him into that job entering camp.

There are plenty of names to consider here. Lambert-Smith is certainly one, as are Cam Sullivan-Brown and Daniel George, both veterans who will hope this is the season for them to finally put everything together.

Norval Black, Jaden Dottin and Malick Meiga also figure to factor in the race for snaps, and it doesn't seem out of the question that true freshmen Liam Clifford and Harrison Wallace compete for a job, either.

Penn State has no shortage of talented athletes to choose from here, but finding a third complement to Dotson and Washington is crucial for the Nittany Lions as they look to bounce back from a disappointing 2020 season.

2. Can Penn State football WR Jahan Dotson cement his 'legendary' status? 

Penn State Nittany Lions football wide receiver Parker Washington surprised many by claiming a starting spot as a true freshman.
Penn State Nittany Lions football wide receiver Parker Washington surprised many by claiming a starting spot as a true freshman. (Penn State Athletics)

Speaking to the media this spring, Jahan Dotson revealed that he writes "be legendary" on his notebooks to drive himself forward.

That goal played a part in his decision to return to school for another season rather than test the NFL Draft, where he surely would have attracted plenty of interest following a 2020 season in which he led the Big Ten in receiving yards.

His 93.78 yards per game pace last season was the best since Allen Robinson's outrageous 2013 season, in which he collected 1,432 yards in 12 games.

Paired with an offensive coordinator who many consider to be one of the brightest offensive minds in college football in Mike Yurcich, can Dotson elevate his game even more and make a run at Robinson's single-season receiving yards record?

More importantly, can he play a part in helping the Nittany Lions bounce back from their worst season since 2004?

3. What's next for Parker Washington? 

Parker Washington surprised experts and fans alike last season, claiming a starting job as a true freshman and making his opportunity count.

Washington's usage came almost exclusively in the slot receiver position. In fact, no regular wide receiver in the Big Ten played a higher percentage of his snaps in the slot than Washington's 97.6.

It's worth noting that, despite the general disarray of the offensive system Penn State operated last season, only one wideout in the Big Ten who played in the slot more than 60 percent of the time had a greater average depth of target than Washington's 11.3 yards — and that was Ohio State's Garrett Wilson.

Washington weighs more than any other scholarship wide receiver on Penn State's roster this season at 207 pounds, despite standing at 5-foot-10.

How will Yurcich look to use his physicality this season?


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