LEWISTON – Sullen expressions and fits of frustration often accompany position changes for college football players this time of year.
So it’s noteworthy that the first words out of Isaac Dotson’s mouth on Thursday were: “I’m excited. I’m definitely excited.”
If Dotson is upset about being moved from quarterback to safety during the first week of Washington State’s preseason camp, he certainly isn’t showing it. The freshman out of Newport High School in Bellevue came to WSU with the intent to play quarterback, though he freely admits he knew there was a chance he’d be moved to another position.
“I knew what I was getting into signing as an athlete,” Dotson said. “I knew that they were going to move me around. So I got those couple days at quarterback and Coach (Mike Leach) was talking to me, and we both mutually felt that it would be better for me to get out there somewhere else, and kind of move me along and help me develop more and get on the field a little earlier.”
Change came Wednesday, when Dotson switched from a blue No. 17 jersey to a white No. 24 jersey and worked with the linebackers, though he was with the safeties on Thursday. Defensive coordinator Mike Breske said that’s where he’ll stay.
“He’s a smart kid,” Breske said. “He’s Football 101 savvy. He’ll get along, and he’s excited. He brings a lot of athleticism, which I saw at the quarterback position in high school. We’ve just got to translate it now to the dark side.”
Dotson has limited experience on that side. He said he played free safety with more frequency toward the end of his senior season at Newport, though he is mostly remembered for the 1,047 rushing yards, 17 rushing touchdowns and 11 touchdown passes he racked up as the team’s quarterback.
But at WSU, he’d likely wind up no better than fifth-string at that position, and his speed and athleticism as a 6-foot-1, 218-pound safety were too much for Leach or Breske to ignore. After all, there’s a reason Dotson – also a basketball player at Newport – was named the Seattle Times’ high school male athlete of the year in the state of Washington.
“He has skills to be higher on the depth chart somewhere else, because he’s going to figure in on special teams,” Leach said. “And then safeties, he’s going to be at two or three pretty quick, and then if he really gets in a rhythm, maybe challenge for a spot.”
That’s the plan. Dotson received reps during 1-on-1 and 7-on-7 drills Thursday, but stood and observed during the 11-on-11 team period in an attempt to get acclimated with the speed before being thrown into the fray.
But that day is coming, Breske said. He plans to play at least four safeties this season, and Dotson joins a group that includes senior starter Deone Bucannon, senior Casey Locker, senior Anthony Carpenter and sophomore Taylor Taliulu in competition for playing time.
It could take some time for Dotson to catch up to speed, though he said his quarterback instincts should help.
“I’ve been playing quarterback my whole life,” Dotson said, “and the guy I’m reading most of the time is the safety. So I’m back there and I know what quarterbacks are looking for, so that’s going to be really beneficial for me to kind of know how quarterback progressions go, and I’ll be able to use that to my advantage.”