He wanted to be a Cougar so badly that he decomitted from Nevada after coach Chris Ault’s retirement, despite the Wolfpack plan to put him at his favorite position: quarterback. He signed with WSU knowing that he’d get no more than a tryout at QB, alongside fellow rookies Luke Falk and Tyler Bruggman, but that he’d most likely end up on defense.
Fortunately for Alex Grinch, Dotson’s QB audition as a true freshman in 2013 lasted only two days before he moved to defensive back and became a special teams standout that season.
Due to injury, he missed all but two games the following year (2014, when he was granted a redshirt) and four more last season, primarily settling in at the nickel spot in '15.
But the injury that had Cougar Nation wringing its hands was the one that kept him out of last week’s loss at Colorado.
Now playing weakside linebacker, Dotson’s absence wasn’t just noticeable in the 38-24 loss in Boulder. It was downright glaring, and made even more so by the fact rush Dylan Hanser and backup WIL Nate DeRider also were out.
Dotson's been a play maker for the Cougar defense all season. Coming into Friday’s Apple Cup showdown between two nationally ranked teams – a game in which Dotson is widely expected to play following the undisclosed injury that shelved him last week – the fourth-year junior is fourth on the team in total tackles (52) and fourth in tackles for loss (5). He also has two interceptions, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.
“He’s really come a long way at the linebacker position,” WSU linebackers coach Ken Wilson recently told Cougfan.com. “He’s comfortable making calls. With him and Peyton (Pelluer) in there together, they’re both real comfortable getting us lined up - getting in the right calls.”
Dotson, who was a multi-sport star at Bellevue’s Newport High, is a natural leader, Wilson said. He offered an example of how that manifests itself in the heat of battle.
“In some of our dime packages, some of our other packages, he does a nice job of getting all the guys lined up that don’t play normal positions that are out there. You know specific positions -- he gets them lined up and ready to play.”
That command of the situation, Wilson believes, stems in part from Dotson’s three years as an All-KingCo quarterback.
That background also makes Dotson's transition this season to linebacker all the more notable.
“I think he’s gotten much more physical, you know for a guy who's been a quarterback and a DB his whole life until this fall, he’s done a great job being physical,” Wilson said.
For Cougar fans, following last week’s frustrating loss, there may be no better sight on Friday than Dotson getting especially physical with Myles Gaskins and Jake Browning.
The No. 23 Cougs (8-3) and No. 6 Huskies (10-1) kickoff at 12:30 pm in Martin Stadium. The winner will be Pac-12 North champion and head to the Pac-12 title game in Santa Clara next week. Fox will have TV coverage, with Gus Johnson and Joel Klatt on the call.
COACH WILSON TALKS ABOUT ISAAC DOTSON:
WSU'S DEFENSIVE STAT LEADERS THROUGH 11 GAMES: