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Chargers 2023 UDFA Profile: RB Elijah Dotson

Dotson became the first Sacramento State running back to be named First-Team All-Big Sky since 2000.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 06 Sacramento State at Arizona State Photo by Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Among the Chargers’ 18-player haul of undrafted free agents, they added a pair of running backs from FCS schools. We have already profiled former North Dakota/Northern Iowa running back Tyler Hoosman so today we’re digging into the group’s other ball-carrier in former Sac State/Northern Colorado rusher Elijah Dotson.

Dotson hails from Sacramento, California where he starred for Antelope High School as a two-way player. As a senior, Dotson set the school record for single-season rushing yards and touchdowns record with 2,223 yards and 25 scores.

Despite being a named a First-Team All-NorCal selection and a First-Team All-Metro by The Sacramento Bee, Dotson wasn’t heavily recruited but he eventually decided to stay close to home and attend Sacramento State.

Dotson wasted little time in making an impact as a freshman as he ended the 2017 season with over 1,000 all-purpose yards and six touchdowns. He followed that promising campaign with a season where he was named First-Team All-Big Sky — the first Hornets running back to do so since 2000 — after rushing for 1,154 yards and nine touchdowns. He repeated First-Team All-Big Sky honors in 2019 on top of being named Second-Team All-America by HERO Sports after recording 1,445 yards from scrimmage (742 rushing, 702 receiving) and 11 total touchdowns.

The pandemic unfortunately took the 2020 season away from him, but Dotson returned to the field in 2021 for just four games before opting to redshirt. After totaling just 98 rushing yards in those four contests, Dotson decided it would be best for him to save his body and continue playing as a grad transfer in 2022.

His final collegiate season came at Northern Colorado where he once again provided a dual-threat presence out of the backfield. He ended the 2022 campaign with 933 rushing yards and six touchdowns to go with 300 receiving yards and two more scores. He also handled kick return duties for the Golden Bears, finishing with an average of 19.4 yards per return on 13 attempts. He only saw one single punt return last year, but he made the most of it by taking it all the way back to the house for an 82-yard touchdown.

At first, I felt that Hoosman had a better chance of making this roster over Dotson as a bigger back that displayed a good amount of success in short-yardage situations. But after really digging into Doston’s tape, I was surprised at how often I saw him running like a bigger back than his listed 202 pounds.

On top of that, his ability as a receiving back holds much more value in today’s NFL than the old-school bruiser archetype. His film showed me he has a good feel for finding the open windows underneath to maximize his yards after catch paired with some sure hands to make the tight-window catch.

In the end, I believe Dotson’s skillset looks much more NFL-ready than Hoosman’s at this point in the offseason. There’s still loads of time left before the preseason gets here, but it’ll be interesting nonetheless to finally see which one of these backs gets more play out of the gate when the Chargers play the Rams to begin the exhibition schedule.