In 2019, few teams in college football had a rushing offense as potent as the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns. In addition to producing three running back who rushed for over 800+ yards, Louisiana's ground offense, ranked third in the nation with 6.28 yards per carry, seventh in total rushing yards with 3,604, and sixth in yard per game with 257.4.
At the centerpiece of this ground attack, was a guard who blossomed into one of the highest-graded, most decorated offensive linemen in the nation. Kevin Dotson was the anchor of an offense that produced 531 points last season.
Before becoming one of the most decorated linemen in Ragin' Cajuns history, the beginning of Dotson career did not seem as promising. In his freshman year, he served on the scout team. The following year, Dotson worked his way up and earned the starting right guard position. He would play in 13 games that season and was named to the Sun Belt Conference All-Newcomer Team. Dotson continued to get better and by his redshirt junior year in 2018, he earned a spot on the Sun Belt Conference's First Team. That season, he started in all 14 games, and helped anchor an offense that averaged 31.9 points per game. In his redshirt senior year, Dotson took his game to another level. Not only was he named a First Team All-American by several publications, he earned All-Louisiana First Team status as well as First Team All-Sun Belt Conference.
Throughout his collegiate a career with the Ragin Cajuns, Dotson has proven to be as proficient a run blocker as they come. Yet there are most dimensions to Dotson than just run-blocking lineman. His ability to play in different spots is part of what made him one of the best interior linemen in this year's draft.
Physical Run Blocking Style
If one were to argue that Dotson was the most proficient run-blocking offensive lineman in this year's class, they would have much evidence to prove such a statement. It would be easy to point out the fact that Dotson is a big, physical body, with excellent lower body strength; yet the key to his excellent run blocking is his overall technique.
Firstly, pad level, Dotson is consistently able to get underneath the pads of opposing defensive linemen. Secondly, hand placement. In these situations, Dotson is able to place his his hands underneath, allowing him to win leverage. The third aspect is balance. Notice how Dotson avoids leaning in too much; he is able to keep his body at a balance while driving his opposing defensive lineman backwards. Overall, he as fundamentally sound as one can be in this area.
Developing Pass Blocking
When evaluating Dotson's pass protection, there is evidence of his improvement in this area.
One of his noted weaknesses in regards to his pass blocking, has been his pad level. As seen in the clip below against Georgia Southern, Dotson does a good job getting underneath the opposing defenders shoulder pads. The second noticeable improvement has been his lateral movement. Dotson has always shown excellent mobility moving in a straight line. In this instance, Dotson does a good job sustaining his block by moving laterally, while maintaining a reasonable pad level. Lastly, his anchor ability is solid, as the opposing lineman has no room to go either inside or out. If there is one area of concern, it would be his footwork. With time, developing this aspect will help him become a more proficient pass blocker.
Dotson was one of the best offensive lineman in this year's draft class, moving in a straight line. One of the reasons is his explosive first step. As demonstrated on his Pro Day back in April, Dotson possesses excellent upper and lower body strength; most importantly, he knows how to us it. Secondly, Dotson's ability to combine his natural strength with mobility. To put into perspective, Dotson ran a 40' time of 4.8s with a 1.78s 10-yard split. With both these attributes noted, one can understand why Dotson was so effective at second-level blocking. As seen in the clip below, note how quickly he gets to linebacker on the second level, and drives the Arkansas State linebacker back into the end zone.
With Dotson, not only did the Pittsburgh Steelers get a solid pick who happens to be a lifelong fan of their team, they potentially received the type of offensive lineman an NFL offense can build around. There is no secret that the age of the interior offensive line has become a real area of concern in the last few seasons. The insertion of a young, aggressive, and highly-adaptable lineman, may become an important part of the equation in reigniting this offense.