Player to Watch: Keelan Doss

[dt_divider style=”thick” /]If you look to the west, there is a bright star in the Big Sky. Located near California’s capital city at a university with a reputation for solving problems related to food, health, the environment, and society, you find a receiver with aspirations and the skills to play in the NFL.


Keelan Doss was a two-sport athlete and four-year member of the academic honor roll at Alameda High School but was lightly recruited coming out of high school. He had a foot injury during his junior year that may have made some shy away but his high school receivers coach did his part to help. Compiling statistics, grades, and game tape, he made 50 copies and sent them out to schools. One responded. The University of California, Davis.

Former Aggies coach Ron Gould made an impression on Doss and his family. When a fire during his senior year caused him and his mother to lose all of their possessions, Gould and the football team threw a fundraiser to help them after the tragedy.

He was offered a scholarship and has improved each season to become a thorn in the side of defensive coordinators. In 2017, the Big Sky Offensive Player of the Year showed just how far he had come.

  • He had 115 receptions, breaking the team single season record by 22 and leading both the FBS and FCS with 10.5 receptions per game.
  • He had 1,499 yards, breaking the team single season record and leading the FBS and FCS with 136.3 yards per game.
  • He had 9 games of over 100 yards, another school record.
  • He finished the season with at least 10 receptions in eight consecutive games, despite often facing double coverage.

Some might diminish his stats a bit because he plays in the FCS, but he’s had success against bigger schools as well. In the 2016 season opener as a sophomore versus Oregon, he had 7 receptions for 116 yards. In the 2017 opener versus San Diego State he had 8 catches for 181 yards and touchdown.

On the Field

Listed at 6 foot 3 inches tall and 206 pounds, Doss has the prototypical size teams are looking for at receiver. He is a lean, long-legged, muscular-framed athlete who has shown the capability to play outside or in the slot in the Aggies spread offense.

He shows quick, smooth acceleration at the snap and is able to get on the defenders toes quickly, and he possesses the speed to get by defenders and excel on the deeper level. He displays good balance and is able to drop his hips to get into his break on short and intermediate routes. He shows the capability to run the entire route tree but does most of his work in the short and deeper routes, especially toward the middle of the field. He possesses a large catch radius and is able to bring the ball in from out and away from his body and is able to out-leap defenders and make the contested catch. Shows good effort on scramble drills as well, working back to the quarterback and showing his numbers to give him a good target.

He doesn’t get used as runner often but makes the most of his opportunities, as he took his lone carry 42 yards for a touchdown last season. I was impressed by his blocking, not just the ability but the willingness. He uses a strong base and long arms, gets his hands on the defender and is able to control and maintain the block until the whistle.


Adjusting to the deep ball: At Oregon, early third quarter Doss (#3) is split wide to the left. Against man coverage, he runs a post and shows good strength and ability to adjust to the ball. His jersey is being tugged by the defender but he maintains excellent concentration to haul in the deep ball.

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High point: At San Diego State, here he is running the same post pattern and he shows good timing and leaping ability to high point the ball.

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After the catch: At San Diego State, Doss is split wide right for a screen. He makes a clean hands catch away from the body and gets his head around quickly to see he’s the beneficiary of two very good blocks by his center and right guard out in front. From there it’s just acceleration to the end zone.

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End zone fade: At Sacramento State, Doss is split wide and it’s a fade to the right corner of the end zone. While he ultimately lands out of bounds, he shows good adjustment to the throw behind him and strong hands with the defender in tight coverage.

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Drop the hips: Split wide left against off coverage, Doss runs up on the defender to get him to turn his body and drops his hips for the comeback route.

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Maybe more of this: This is Doss’ lone carry in college, here he motions right to a jet sweep. He turns it up, breaks a tackle and runs by two other defenders for touchdown. This was in the last game of the season, so maybe they’ll try it more this year.

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Things I’d Like to See

He does a lot of his damage in the inner part of the field. Post patterns, slants, crosses. While I did see comebacks and outs occasionally, there is room to add more there.

He has a big body and can shield defenders away from the ball but he’ll need to work on being more explosive out of the break at the next level.

He unnecessarily leaves his feet slightly when receiving the ball, which could be a timing thing or just a comfort thing, and it might be nitpicking here, but cutting out the unnecessary moves will benefit him – especially as he makes a potential jump to the NFL.

What Can We Expect?

Competition will be tough with Street & Smith’s predicting four Big Sky conference teams to be in the FCS top 25 rankings. Watching the Aggies, you can see that Doss and fellow Walter Payton Award nominee quarterback Jake Maier have a good chemistry, so the stats should be there despite double coverage expectations. He’ll have a good test this season when they play at Stanford on September 15th.

If you haven’t seen him yet, make sure you do or else you’ll have to wait to see him on Sundays next fall.

Follow Tom on Twitter @THMead3. Check out his other work here, such as his look at Washington RB Myles Gaskin, his preview of Virginia RB/WR Olamide Zaccheaus or his look at how paying a high salary veteran QB may hurt your chances of winning.

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