Player Spotlight: Donovan Smith
The perennially overlooked offensive line is suddenly drawing more attention. Penn State’s unit has been struggling, despite plenty of experience. With the exception of Garry Gilliam, the linemen have been playing their respective positions for a while now.
Donovan Smith, a redshirt sophomore and the youngest of the starters, is looking to have a great year protecting the blind side of true freshman quarterback, Christian Hackenberg.
Smith started nine out of the ten games he appeared in last season. He was sidelined due to a sprained ankle during in the second week. However, Smith was able to overcome the injury and return to the starting lineup, in time for the intense comeback win over No. 24 Northwestern.
Smith was selected to the ESPN.com’s Big Ten All-Freshman team for his efforts throughout the 2012 season.
Smith sees room for improvement and what it will take for the offensive line to reach their potential.
“Execution. That’s mainly it,” said the Maryland native. “Coach O’Brien gave us the plays…and it’s just a matter of us executing.”
In their first two games, the offensive line allowed six total sacks, one of which led to Hackenberg dropping the ball into the end zone which resulted in an opponent’s touchdown.
The left tackle will have his work cut out form him against a tough opponent in UCF.
“They’re a tough, physical team,” Smith explained. “They’re fast, they swarm to the ball.”
Smith is no stranger to big games. Smith was selected to the 2011 Army All-American Bowl, and played a vital role in Penn State’s memorable 2012 campaign. Smith paved the way for Matt McGloin and Zack Zwinak have historic years by providing outstanding protection.
Standing at 6 feet 5 inches, and weighing in at 322 pounds, Smith not only shows size and strength, but the quickness to play at the outside tackle position. Smith added 15 pounds in the offseason, and showed everyone that he was serious about holding on to his starting position this year.
Head coach Bill O’Brien believes that this offensive line has the potential to be one of the best in the country.
“We hold our offensive line to a very high standard here at Penn State,” said O’Brien. “Those guys know they can play better and we expect them to.”
This weekend, look for the offensive line to give it their all and continue to implement O’Brien visions. You can listen the Nittany Lions take on the Knights, and see No. 76 protect Hackenberg’s blindside on ComRadio. Coverage begins at 3 p.m.
Alex Passaretti is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.