Next up in our preview of Penn State players is offensive tackle Donovan Smith. While the offensive line will lack experience in 2014, Smith will be entering his third season as a starter and will be the leader of the group, having already proven to be a solid pass protector for star quarterback Christian Hackenberg.
Smith is one of five remaining members of the group dubbed the “Supa Six” who decided to stay at Penn State amid the controversy surrounding the Jerry Sandusky situation.
The talented tackle first saw the field in 2012, playing in 10 games and making nine starts. He was a starter at the beginning of the season, but then missed time due to an early season injury. The left tackle performed admirably and was named to the ESPN Big Ten All-Freshman team. He was a key part of an offensive line that helped lead the Nittany Lions as the top offense in the Big Ten Conference. Smith was instrumental in the protection of quarterback Matt McGloin and helped to open holes for running back Zach Zwinak.
Last season, Smith started 11 games. Again, Smith played a vital role in protecting the blind side of the Penn State quarterback, this time, it was Hackenberg, who was named Big Ten Freshman of the year.
Entering the upcoming season, the Nittany Lions have several question marks on the offensive line. Graduation and an injury to Miles Dieffenbach has caused depth issues, prompting head coach James Franklin to switch players to the offensive line from other positions. Brian Gaia and Derek Dowrey were moved from the defensive line and Albert Hall was converted to the offensive line from tight end.
Smith will need to be a leader this season after the departure of John Urschel to the NFL. Hopefully Smith can stay completely healthy and play an entire season, providing a solid presence on the Penn State offensive line.